For years, Los Angeles has considered building a new terminal, just east of Southwest Airlines' Terminal 1, in what is today an airport-owned parking lot.
Now it seems it might happen. In an interview last week, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told me airport operator Los Angeles World Airports, or LAWA, is "very serious about it," and said the terminal, if built and awarded to Southwest, could change the scope of the airline's operation. But with competitors also begging for more gates, it's no guarantee Southwest would get the facility, which might be called Terminal 0 or Terminal 1E and could have up to 10 gates.
"We haven't been able to grow in L.A. in forever," Kelly said. "To their credit, LAWA wants to keep the balance of competition healthy. If we are unable to grow and competitors are growing in other terminals, that's not good. So yes, I think that certainly we have a good argument for why we would be able to utilize those additional gates."
Kelly and I were speaking in Southwest's newly renovated Terminal 1, a more than $500 million renovation to a building that was until recently a dark, dilapidated facility shared by Southwest and US Airways. It's beautiful and does not look like a terminal belonging to a low-cost carrier. Southwest did not pay for it directly — the airport operator covers most improvements — but as Kelly told me, "the airlines pay these bills one way or the other."
More improvements will come soon. Southwest is next focused on Terminal 1.5, a building to connect Terminals 1 and 2 that will provide more space for ticketing. It should open in 2020. As for when the completely new terminal might open, Kelly said, "obviously, we would like it to be shortly after 2020 but I just don't have a timeline yet."
Be sure to read my story for more information from Kelly, including why the airline still hedges fuel, and why its plans to fly to Hawaii might be taking longer than some had hoped.