I like Business Traveler magazine. Their articles are good and so are their reviews, though they are wary of writing anything negative about their subjects. And I like their annual awards because I am curious what other business travelers believe are the best in various travel categories. While our opinions may differ, I was really perplexed by their decision to vote LAX Airport the best in the entire North American region.
Business Traveler doesn’t explain why any of their winners won a particular category. Really, they can’t because the votes come from travelers so I tried to gain some insight from this article by Aviation Pros. Unfortunately it didn’t help. The article does cite the following about LAX:
“The award recognizes the airport’s “investment of billions of dollars and commitment to creating a transportation hub focused on connections, comfort, quality and value that improve the travel experiences of road warriors.”
And they added this quote…
“LAX’s current multi-billion-dollar, airport-wide improvements; continued revitalization of the airport’s dining and retail offerings that reflect L.A. culture, cuisine, and lifestyle; and other passenger amenities are providing all visitors to LAX – including the important business traveler segment – with a significantly improved customer service experience,” said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports that owns and operates LAX and two other Southern California airports. She added, “The major U.S. airlines at LAX are also committed to passenger-service improvements by investing more than $1 billion combined to renovate their terminals and airline lounges.”
Okay, that’s all important but can’t you say the exact same thing about LAX’s similar land locked cousin on the other coast, JFK? Seems to me that both airports have invested billions of dollars for improvements – and I appreciate this as a passenger – but what I’m looking for is what makes LAX the best airport in North America.
I’ll use Delta Air Lines as an example since they have a very strong presence at JFK and a growing one at LAX. Besides, these same voters chose Delta as the best North American airline for business and first class.
At JFK, Delta just had a press day for the gate expansion of Terminal 4. They are pumping over a billion dollars into this airport, including nearly $200 million for this project. Even with the additional gates, however, it will still be necessary to move passenger traffic via jitney bus between Terminals 4 and 2.
At LAX, Delta’s growth is well beyond available gates at their home in Terminal 5 so an increasing number of passengers must use the very much unimproved Terminal 6. While there is no bus service required, it does mean walking through a long, narrow underground tunnel between the two. In fairness, it is not as dingy as it used to be but this is one of those experiences where there is never enough lipstick you can put on this pig to make it pretty short of spending another billion dollars to widen the tunnel and put in a people mover. Oh, and there is no Delta lounge in Terminal 6.
The Bradley International Terminal at LAX is nice but like JFK, is maddeningly crowded at peak times and typically requires a shuttle to get to connecting flights. And while it is true that other carriers are spending billions to improve LAX, the same can be said about JFK as well.
All this leaves me wondering why LAX is better than JFK, much less why it is the best airport in North America. Obviously it wouldn’t be my first choice but perhaps these other business travelers know something I don’t.
If you are curious, all the Business Traveler awards are posted here.