United Puddlejumpers Get the Boot at LAX

There’s yet another development in the ongoing daytime drama, “Days of our LAX.” This time, there’s trouble afoot for United. All those little 30 seat turboprops buzzing around California will no longer be able to nest in cozy Terminal 8. They’re being banished back to the old remote terminal.

I’ll get to the details as well as the history of this fight in a second, but first, thanks again to my high-tech graphics abilities, I’ve created an overlay on the Google Maps satellite of LAX to show you what’s going on here.

Pretty, isn’t it? (You don’t have to be so mean about it – drawing straight lines is hard.)

Anyway, as we all know by now, LAX has 9 terminals around the main horseshoe. Three on the north side, five on the south side, and the big Bradley International Terminal at the west end. Back in the day, airlines could use any planes they wanted to belly up to those gates, but that changed.

In the 1990s, space became tight. So the airport came to agreement with Delta and American (the biggest turboprop operators at the time) to put their props at remote gates so they could free up space in the main terminals. After Delta basically shed their entire commuter operation, United picked it up and until 2005, they also were at the remote gates.

As you can see on the map, American uses remote gates that are way on the left hand side. That’s actually right where their hangar is. Meanwhile, United used the little gates all the way in the bottom right corner. The gates are not exactly “chalets” or even remotely close. They’re cramped. And United’s terminal is far worse than American’s.

So in 2005, United, which had cut back its schedule so much in LA, decided to bring all the flights back into Terminal 8. That’s great news for passengers, but LAX was hardly happy about this. There is still a gate shortage and United was basically thought to be squatting on gates to prevent competition. The airport tried to kick them back but to no avail. That’s why you don’t see any planes around the remote terminal in this picture.

So yesterday, moving at the glacial pace we all know and love, it was finally once again. No deadline was set, but it will be happening.

So what does this mean? (I ask that a lot.) If you fly on those little guys, it means back to the bus for you. You’ll no longer be able to walk to your plane. They’ll stick you in the cattle car and drive you over to the, um, flying cattle car. So you’ll need longer connecting times.

But what’s more interesting is to speculate about what it means for United’s terminals. They clearly don’t have enough flights to fill the terminals, and I can’t imagine they’ll be able to squat on the gates forever. (I may eat those words.) So what might they do with them? Personally, I’d love to see them bring Star Alliance partner US Airways over from Terminal 1. Then you could really improve connectivity and get US Airways out of that tight squeeze they have now. Of course, if you do that, you then cede US Airways’ old gates to Southwest and they’ll be able to expand quickly.

It’s never boring, that’s for sure. Uh, at least, it’s not boring for me.

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