LAX's smart new terminal gives everyone the star treament.
On a recent afternoon in Los Angeles, I stopped by Fred Segal and admired a white bicycle with a leather saddle. I had a fried-chicken sandwich for lunch at Ink.Sack, the takeaway joint owned by renowned chef Michael Voltaggio, and a robust macchiato at Lamill Coffee, followed by a spontaneous vodka-tasting session. What's remarkable is that I accomplished all this within the dazzling new confines of LAX.
For many years, the airport's Tom Bradley International Terminal was a bleak enclave of cramped walkways, uncomfortable seating, unforgiving lighting and uninspiring shops and restaurants. All that has gone, in a sweeping three-year $2.13 billion makeover. Though the entire project won't be completed until 2015, many of the updates have been unveiled in the past few months.
Designed by Fentress Architects, the modernised terminal has a curved aluminium roof that recalls breaking waves and interiors full of light, dramatic art and sleek furniture. Westfield, meanwhile, has assembled a tempting array of vendors, many of which, such as Kitson and Fred Segal, are local. Dining options are similarly impressive. Travellers can try upscale Mexican at Border Grill, Neapolitan pizze at 800 Degrees, award-winning burgers at Umami, or several types of caviar and Champagne at Petrossian. "We wanted a first-class lounge experience for all of our passengers," says Westfield's Eileen Hanson. Speaking of lounges, there are five destined for the mezzanine level, though only the impressive Star Alliance lounge has opened, with a noodle bar and outdoor deck. (Like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, I contemplated moving in.) Downstairs, I window-shopped at Hermès and Gucci, tasted flavoured vodkas and eyed a bottle of 50-year-old Balvenie single-malt for $51,600. At last, LA has an airport terminal befitting its status as the entertainment capital of the world.
Read more: Gourmet Traveller's guide to Los Angeles.