The newly built Tom Bradley International terminal at LAX opened in September 2013 but I have yet to experience the new terminal that cost $2 billion and 3 years to build. I'm planning a trip to go to Hong Kong to visit my family and I can't wait to experience the new terminal. The funding of the construction is said to be not from taxpayer money, but from the airport's reserve fund and a tax-exempt bond that is backed by the airport's operating revenue. I hope the new structure will operate profitably long enough to pay off the interest and principal of the bond for years to come, before it will need to use tax dollars or additonal city borrowing to pay for another round of remodeling or expansion works. After all, the city of Los Angeles is ultimately responsible for paying off the bond when the airport can't generate enough revenue service the debt.
For many years, I had always felt every depressed when I flew back to LAX from Hong Kong or Singapore or Shanghai. Compared to the optimistic and upbeat energy in other international airports, the atmosphere at LAX's international terminal was downright depressing. Just the chipped and worn out ugly big sign of "Welcome To the United States of America" made me want to turn back and fly back to wherever I flew in from. Beyond that ugly and chipped "Welcome" board, things just got worse from there. The custom clearance lobby was always an over crowded nightmare with hostile looking officers who were rude and who were extremely slow in processing clearance. Many of the custom officers are minorities who probably came to America to escape their hostile looking government officials in their home countries decades ago. But I don't understand why they carried the same kind of hostile demeanor now. They always spoke with heavily accented English that sometimes I had to ask, "Pardon Me?" a few times in order to answer their questions and it was because of that they usually became even ruder with me. My husband told me that if only I became a US citizen and travelled with a US passport, they would ask fewer questions every time when I flew back to America. Anyway, the custom clearance to me was always like being in a very crowded Post Office in New York or Los Angeles around Christmas time, but only many times much worse.
After the horrible wait for the stamp on my passport, then there was always the horrible wait for the baggage and one time my digital camera was stolen from my luggage!!! I filed a report but I never got my camera back. Since then I never put anything valuable in my luggage except clothing. My husband later told me that LAX was always known to have the most luggage thefts in the entire USA because some of the staff were thieves and that I was foolish to check in valuable items. But how was I supposed to know? If some of the staff at the airport were thieves, then some were not doing their jobs because the bathrooms in that terminal were the dirtiest among all the airports that I had used. Some cleaning staff were obviously not cleaning frequent enough.
Out of the airport, more hassle lied ahead, because there was no well coordinated transportation for me to get out of the airport. I was always pushing my carts outside the side walk, wandering around, looking for either my husband or my friends to pick me up. And when they did find me, we all got to push my carts and walk a long way to the parking structure where they parked. Then from there, it took forever to get out of LAX and it took even longer to be stuck on the 405 freeway, passing more ugly and depressing looking neighborhoods, to finally get home with a very hungry stomach.
Whenever I flew in and out of Hong Kong, I did it all alone by myself with minimal pushing and dragging of my luggage, because the airport system there has such great integration service that baggage check-in and transportation and hotel check in and out is made a seamless and hassle-free process. For me personally, it was often a matter of going in and out of a few automatic doors and boom.. I was in a hotel, or inside my parents' condo building in no time. I never had to trouble my family or relative to pick me up at the airport or drive me there, there was no need to. The airport was also very well connected with other major cities in China by ferries, express trains, buses, etc..I could land in Hong Kong and be very conveniently arriving at the Venetian Casino and Resort or any hotels in Macao. There are also so many great restaurants near the airport terminals that are very easy to get into that I always got a nice meal before I showed up at the hotel or at my parents' place with my luggage. Getting out of LAX got me to nowhere if I didn't want to spend much time being stuck at 405. I couldn't even go home fast enough, let alone going to the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas after landing at LAX.
Hopefully, this new improvement to the LAX is going to propel the airport to the world's 100 best airports list which it consistently missed for many years. The new terminal looks so much nicer than the old one. But look alone isn't what an airport is about, I am never at an airport to be entertained or to shop, I am at an airport because I need the transit to get somewhere safely and conveniently. It's always going to be the nice and efficient transportation service that matter to me. So I can't wait to see what the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX can offer in my upcoming trip.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong airport is doing an expansion project that cost approximately US$10 billion after the public and the government opted for the more expensive 3 runways capacity expansion proposal. I guess it's not too expensive compared to the $2 billion LAX spent on building just one terminal.