The exterior of the extensively renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
All the passenger gates aren't finished at the new Tom Bradley International Terminal. Neither are the modern concourses, upscale concessions or passenger security checkpoints. Baggage claim still needs work.
But Los Angeles politicians, dignitaries and airport officials are celebrating anyway.
Instead of marking the Bradley's completion, which has fallen behind schedule, a series of events that began Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport will showcase the progress that has been made in transforming the outdated terminal and LAX, which has long received mediocre grades from travelers.
"We've gone from worst to best," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared as he strolled through the soaring Great Hall of the Bradley, 10 days before he leaves office. "I think we've just upped the game a little bit."
The international terminal, which is undergoing a $2-billion renovation, is the airport's most lucrative travel gateway. It is "the crown jewel" of a broad $4.1-billion modernization program at LAX, said Michael Lawson, president of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners. "It sets the bar for a new passenger experience."
With its cavernous interior and high-end amenities for travelers, the Bradley was the focal point of a preview for the news media Thursday morning. Dinner and entertainment for about 1,000 guests followed in the evening.
On Saturday, the new terminal will be open to the public for viewing, and officials will re-dedicate the bust of former Mayor Tom Bradley, the terminal's namesake. The bronze sculpture is just outside the ticketing and check-in area.
The terminal project includes a million square feet of space and 18 gates. Nine gates can handle the largest commercial aircraft such as the giant Airbus A380, which can carry up to 800 passengers.
The Great Hall and the two concourses that house the gates have a sleek interior and curved ceilings, designed to evoke the image of ocean waves.
The color scheme is white with accents of silver and natural wood. Towering glass walls and banks of windows in the roof provide panoramic views of the city and the mountains. A digital clock tower rises five stories high.
The upscale retail stores and restaurants inside the Great Hall will cater to the ultra-rich: the kind who can afford a $30,000 bottle of 50-year-old Balvenie Scotch or a $20,000 Vertu cellphone, available in the duty-free shops.
Among the other brand names are Gucci, Hermes, Bulgari, Burberry and Michael Kors. The restaurants include Chaya and Border Grill. Wines will be served at Vino Volo.
"We set out to put Los Angeles back on the map and be No. 1 again," said architect Curt Fentress, who designed the Bradley. "This building will go a long way to achieving that."
Gina Marie Lindsey, the executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, said the new terminal should make LAX more competitive with other major airports that have improved their international facilities, such its rival San Francisco. She said airlines are interested in moving into the facility, and four more A380s a day are expected to be operating out of the Bradley by the middle of next year.
The gates on the terminal's west side and the Great Hall were supposed to be finished in December 2012, but construction complications and additions to the project delayed their openings.
Three Bradley gates are now in operation. Airport officials say five more gates on the west side, the concourses and the Great Hall are scheduled to open at the end of August. The east side gates, which require the old international concourses to be razed, will be finished in 2014. The entire project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.