Report: Delta will switch terminals at LAX, though not right away

Delta eventually will move from its LAX Terminal 5. Photo: Corgan. 

Delta eventually will move from its LAX Terminal 5. Photo: Corgan. 

Delta Air Lines will move from Terminals 5 and 6 at Los Angeles International Airport to Terminals 2 and 3, at some point in the future, Flight Global's Ned Russell reported last week. 

This has been rumored for years, so it is nice to see Delta finally confirm it is happening. As many of you know, Delta just completed a $229 million renovation of its LAX facility, but the airport, not the airline, paid for nearly all of it. Delta only paid for a small subset of renovations it deemed crucial to its brand - for improvements that cannot be easily used by another airport tenant. This makes it much easier for Delta to leave.

"We’ve signed a letter of intent with the city of Los Angeles to rehabilitate LAX [terminals] two and three and relocate our operation in what will be the biggest terminal facility there," Delta CEO Richard Anderson told employees, according to Flight Global. 

No one knows much, including the timeframe. But I don't think anything is imminent. 

Here are some of the reasons the move makes sense for the Delta and the airport

Delta should get more real estate. Delta has grown its footprint in the Los Angeles in the past five years, and it lacks enough gates to fly the schedule it wants. For passengers, too, its main space in Terminal 5 is crowded. While no one has said what the plan is, it seems likely Delta would get more space in Terminals 2 and 3 than it has now and possibly more gates, too. 

Delta should get a nicer facility. At an airport as old as LAX, $229 million only goes so far. If you have been in Delta's renovated terminal, you know that, while it is nice, it is nothing special.  By starting over, Delta and the airport will probably think bigger and more expensive. LAX is spending more than $500 million each on renovations for United and Southwest, and I bet Delta's new digs will be considerably pricier.

Delta just finished a new VIP lobby at LAX for its Delta One customers. Photo: Corgan. 

Delta just finished a new VIP lobby at LAX for its Delta One customers. Photo: Corgan. 

American will also have room to grow. Delta, of course, does not care about making things easier for American, its most fierce competitor in L.A. But LAX, the landlord, likes to make all of its tenants happy. And right now, American has a crazy operation. Most of its flights leave from Terminal 4. But it also has departures from Terminal 6, the Tom Bradley International Terminal, and a remote pad (reachable only by bus) that it uses for American Eagle flights. With Delta out, American should be able to concentrate its operations in Terminals 4 and 5.  

It should reduce some ground congestion. If you fly out of LAX often, you probably know it has two distinct complexes - the North Airfield and the South Airfield. Each side has two runways. The problem is that four of the five busiest airlines at LAX - United, Delta, American and Alaska - now operate from the South Side. Among the big tenants, only Southwest is on the north side. When Delta moves, it should make the airport's south alleys and taxiways a little less busy, which may mean fewer ground delays. 

Virgin America and JetBlue should get better terminals. Virgin America and JetBlue are both now in Terminal 3, and neither is so happy with the arrangement. The place is a dump. I don't know where the airlines will go once Delta takes the terminal over, but presumably wherever it is, it will be better than Terminal 3.