Los Angeles International Airport

LAX Airport is lonely. And wants to play

Airports are quiet, lonely places these days.

Rightly so, given the “stay home” orders we are all following, if we can.

But, like us, airports still want to play.

So, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has put together a suitcase full of fun activities, videos and even a cut-and-play board game to keep us entertained and engaged.

First up: these cute minute-long video check-ins in with team members form the LAX PUPs (Pets Unstressing Passengers) program.

Next up: LAX at Home – the GAME

If you need a break from video games, try this ‘LAX At Home‘ board game.

The goal of the game is to be the first to travel around the horseshoe layout of LAX, which in normal times can get take a half-hour or more.

You can download and print out the playing board and more than 50 Boarding Pass cards that let you advance – not – around the board.

LAX game creators promise that playing the game you will feel as if you are at LAX: “Experience the excitement of world-class restaurants, catch a performance or check out the celebrity sightings. Just watch out for traffic, paparazzi and leave two hours before your flight.”

LAX also has downloadable coloring pages with airport themes, digital puzzles and a playlist of travel songs to keep you entertained and thinking about how much fun you’ll have when we can all get back out on the road.

LAX Airport has a ghost kitchen

Would you order food from a kitchen?

You probably have. And now you can order a meal from a ghost kitchen at Los Angeles International Airport.

Through its LAX Shop & Dine website, travelers at Los Angeles International Airport can pre-order and pre-pay for meals from one or more food nearby food vendors, then just swing by, skip the lines, and pick up their order.

Now a new service named Breeze has been added to the order-ahead list.

The Breeze menu is full of healthy meals, including gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options, but don’t go looking for it in the terminal.

Breeze has no physical dine-in space.

Instead, Breeze uses a ghost kitchen – a cooking space used only to prepare food for one or more delivery venues – and delivers food to a kiosk on the T2 dining terrace for pick-up.

Orders can be made via the Breeze app, the LAX Shop & Dine site or via text and picked up within minutes. Orders can also be made up to 24 hours ahead, with a specified pick-up time. Say, right before you’re about to board a flight.

Sound tasty and convenient? Breeze and services like it may soon expand the use of ghost-kitchens to other LAX terminals and other airports.

Listen up at LAX

Airports serve as the front doors to their cities and many do a great job of rolling out the welcome mat for visitors.

Some airports do it with art. Some airports do it with “Welcome to” signs.

And others do it with recorded messages.

Los Angeles International Airport has been welcoming visitors with its “Voices of Los Angeles” project. The program greets passengers with recorded messages from notable and well-known local figures.

Since the inauguration of the Voices of Los Angeles program in July 2019, passengers and visitors at LAX have been treated to welcome messages recorded by entertainers, sports figures, musicians, actors, and chefs. The common theme: they all have what the airport calls “the spirit of Los Angeles.”

Now there are three new familiar voices in the line-up:

TV and film actor Danny Trejo – who also owns several restaurants, including Trejo’s Taco at LAX;

Academy Award-winning actress Allison Janney;

And former LA Lakers basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Give a listen:

These messages are now playing on the overhead public announcement system in each terminal. New voices and new messages will continue to be rotated in on a regular basis.

Who would you like to hear welcoming you to LAX?

The North Pole or the airport? Continued.

Reindeers coming back to SEA airport

Reindeers and gate access

Airports around the country continue to go all out to entertain passengers this holiday season.

Reindeers will return to the light rail station at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) on December 18 and 19.

And the SEA Visitor Pass program piloted last year will now be a permanent airport amenity. The program allows non-ticketed guests the opportunity to enter the secure side of the airport to enjoy shopping, dining, and other amenities.

The gate pass program also means non-ticketed flyers have extra time to spend with friends and family before their flight and to be there at the gate when a flight lands.

More details will be rolled out on Monday,  December 16, when the program officially resumes.

We’re happy to see that gate pass programs are now officially a trend at airports.

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), Tampa International Airport (TPA) and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) have gate pass programs at well.

Santa Paws, Teddy Bears and more

Elsewhere, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has some treats in store for holiday week travelers.

LAX has booked nine musical acts and groups, including the popular TSA Choir, to perform at various terminals and the LAX-it pick-up lot throughout December.

On Friday, Dec. 20, LAX employees will host an arts and crafts activity for kids at the Tom Bradley International Terminal Children’s Playground from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special guests will include “Santa PAWS” from the LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) Program therapy dogs.

And on December 25, Los Angeles Airport Police officers, spouses and family members will be in various locations at LAX handing out teddy bears, candy canes and tree ornaments to children.

Holiday decoration or what?

And here’s a holiday ‘decoration’ we spotted early Friday morning this week at the Geneva Airport in Switzerland.

Not sure if this character just had a really bad night or what…

Dude, where’s my ride? Airports move Uber/Lyft away from curbside

At many airports, curbside pick-up is moving away from the curb.

On October 29, Los Angeles International joins the growing list of airports where curbside traffic has gotten so bad that taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber to Lyft are no longer permitted to pick up at passengers at the curb.

“We have heard from our guests that the current system with ride pickups can be frustrating.” “said Keith Wilschetz, Deputy Executive Director for Operations and Emergency Management at Los Angeles World Airports, said in a statement

“Frustrating” is a polite way of describing how excruciating and time-consuming using a ride-app at LAX can be.

During peak times, app users now often spend upwards of 45 minutes to an hour between waiting for their ride to arrive curbside and sitting in traffic to get out of the Central Terminal Area.

“That’s if the drive doesn’t cancel on you,” said LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery.

At LAX, bad curbside traffic is about to get worse as the airport construction associated with terminal redevelopment and the new automated people mover begins.

“We will be losing more than 30% of our curb front, so doing nothing is not an option,” said Montgomery.

The solution at LAX is to move the pick-up area for both taxi and ride app users away from the terminal curbsides entirely to a new area, dubbed “LAX-it,” just east of Terminal 1.

Passengers will be able to walk to the new pick-up area from some of the terminals and a shuttle will pick-up passengers at all terminals in a dedicated lane on the lower/arrivals level lane.

LAX officials say getting from the airport to the pick-up lot should be no more than 15 minutes (from most terminals) and exiting the terminal should be faster because drivers no longer must battle backups in the Central Terminal Area.

Once it rolls out on October 29, the LAX-it system will no doubt need some tweaks.

For now, some passengers are worried the new system will be confusing and pick-up time will be no shorter than it is now. In a statement, Lyft said it looks forward to working with LAX on providing “the best possible pick-up and drop-off experience for all users,” but Uber outlined its long list of concerns with the plan in a letter to airport officials.

How do other airports tackle curbside congestion?  

Back in 2016, Seattle Tacoma International Airport worked with ride-app providers to move pick-ups inside the airport parking garage, adjacent to space set already aside for other commercial ground transportation operators.

“We have since made traffic flow process improvements,” said SEA spokeswoman Kate Hudson, “We’re lucky in Washington state that cars must have front and near license plates as it allows passengers to locate their vehicle from both angles.”

The Port of Seattle staffs the ride-app pick-up area and contracts for additional ambassadors during peak times. 

With a goal of diverting at least 45% of ride-hailing pick-up activity away from the terminal roadways, in summer 2018 San Francisco International Airport relocated pickups for Uber Pool, Express Pool and Lyft’s shared categories to the Domestic Parking Garage. And in March 2019, Uber X and Lyft offered their customers the option to be picked up in the Airport’s Domestic Hourly Garage at $3 less than the curbside rate.

“To date, these measures have only shifted about 21% of [ride-hailed] pickup activity off the terminal roadways, falling short of the 45% diversion rate,” said SFO spokesman Doug Yakel, so as of June 5, 2019 SFO relocated all domestic terminal pickups for ride-apps, including Uber, Lyft, and Wingz, from the curbside to the 5th floor of the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

In mid-November 2018, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) moved the pick-up area for all taxis and ride-app companies to the ground level of the airport’s Rental Car Facility.

“In the new space, dedicated taxi lanes are to the immediate left, while three ride share pick-up lanes are on the right,” said AUS spokesman Bryce Dubee, “The three ride share lanes are color-coded in blue, red and yellow with corresponding numbers 1-4 so that both passengers and drivers have a specific spot to meet up.”

The overall walking distance is about 750 feet, so before the switch was made the airport purchase four ADA-compliant 12-passenger electric shuttles to provide transport between lower-level locations and also leased an electric autonomous vehicle to transport passengers on the upper level of the garage.

Looking ahead, at the end of this month, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) will move both pick-ups and drop-offs for app ride passengers to new dedicated curb areas.

The new areas – conveniently located in the Central Parking – will be protected from the weather, brightly lit, and connected to all terminals via moving walkways,” said BOS spokeswoman Samantha Decker. “The new areas will also provide all the services passengers expect, including luggage carts, wheelchair services, and bag check service.”

(My story about airports relocating pick-up spots for Uber, Lyft, Wingz and taxis first appeared on USA TODAY)