On Tuesday this week, Delta, city and airport officials held the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Delta’s new operation at LAX. Because of the downturn in travel during the pandemic, the first phase of the project was completed 18 months ahead of schedule. This is good news for everyone just getting back to air travel. There will be a completely new experience for passengers departing LAX with Delta once the new Sky Way Headhouse officially opens on April 20, 2022.
I got a sneak peek of the new Sky Way Headhouse during a trial run on Wednesday, one day after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which I missed because of my work schedule. If you are not familiar with what a trial is, it is a way for Delta to test the new facility before opening to the public. Volunteers are invited to act as passengers at the new facility. Everyone gets a script which they have to follow on what to do. This script details your traveler profile like if you are checking bags, or how you will be checking in at the terminal, as well if you have TSA pre-check or just regular security screening. It goes on and on. Below you can see my script and passenger profile.
This is not my first trial at a new airport terminal. A few years back I participated in the trial at the new Satellite Terminal at Munich Airport in Germany. As an aviation geek, trials like this are awesome and I just love it. It gave me the option to experience the new facility before it officially opened to passengers.
Checking In for the Delta Sky Way Trial
The check-in location was a parking lot near the aviation-themed restaurant “Proud Bird” at the south-eastern corner of the airport. Snacks and water was supplied while we waited for the busses to take us to the airport to begin our trial. While waiting to board the busses, participants in the trial were able to meet dogs from the LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program. These dogs are around the airport to provide stress relief and comfort to passengers through interactions. These pets are the volunteers who “own” dogs and both donate time to LAX. There were three out at the meeting location for the trial and the cutest one was for sure Murphy, a golden retriever with the nickname “Murph the Smurf”. More information about the PUP program is available at www.lawa.org/pup. There are quite a few of them listed on the website but I can’t recall ever seeing one in the terminal roaming around.
Announcements were made and the volunteers for the trial headed to their assigned buses where we got additional instructions about the trial. From there we headed straight to the departure level of the Headhouse where we got assigned bags according to our script and then walked inside the check-in hall.
Delta Sky Way Headhouse
Yes, it definitely is a weird name and they could have come up with a more creative name. I don’t know how much money was spent on marketing to come up with this name. Headhouse it is and that’s the official name for Delta’s new facility at LAX.
The Headhouse will be the new central point for passengers flying with Delta. It will connect Terminals 2 and 3 and every passenger will go through this new facility now, no matter arriving or departing. One of the best features of the new facility is the airside connection of Terminals 2 and 3. No more need to get through security if you have to go from one terminal to the other. The Headhouse will be also connected via an airside Sky Walk to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) or also commonly referred to as Terminal B. However, this connection to TBIT won’t open until the Spring of 2023.
Departing and Check-In
As a departing passenger, you will arrive on the upper level of the Terminal. Passengers will appreciate the wider curb for unloading and getting into a light-filled departure hall. Once the automated people mover system at LAX is completed, passengers arriving via the APM will have a bridge spanning over the upper driveway and connecting near the new headhouse to get to the Check-In counters.
If I counted correctly, you will find 32 self-serve kiosks and 46 staffed check-in counters. A digital back wall spans the entire back of the check-in area. There will be separate areas for SkyPriority, Agent Assist, and bag drop. Everything is clearly marked with signs and on the digital back wall. The digital back wall shows most of the information in English and Spanish.
Currently, there is only a dedicated check-in area at the far end of the counters for Delta One customers. A dedicated check-in area for Delta One passengers is scheduled to open in the Winter of 2022. When you arrive at the airport look for the Delta One sign at the curb near Terminal 2. Delta One passengers will experience a private reception area with an elite service team taking care of them. While you get checked in and have your bags checked, you can grab a drink and snack from the refreshment bar. Once ready you will coast through security via a private access corridor. For passengers departing from Terminal 3, an inter-terminal bus will take you there in minutes. I hope this will be also extended for passengers flying out of Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Once you completed your check-in in the Headhouse, exit the counters to your right and follow it to the end of the building where two sets of escalators, a handful of elevators, and a staircase, which is centered between the escalators, will take you upstairs to the security checkpoint.
Once you get upstairs you have to make a 180 and head to the security checkpoint. Thanks to large windows and the white color, the security checkpoint area is light-trenched as well.
You will get your usual security checkpoints for regular passengers, SkyPriority, Clear, and TSA Precheck. As mentioned earlier, the consolidated security checkpoint will now allow you to enter Terminal 2 and 3 without having to reclear security and in the future, you will also be able to reach the TBIT from here. The signs are already up, however, the Sky Way connecting the Headhouse to TBIT is still under construction and is scheduled to open in Spring 2023.
14 security lines will allow for a bigger passenger throughput and shorter waiting times at the security checkpoint. 11 of the 14 security lines will be Automated Screening Lanes. Seven of the security lanes will be open when the facility opens on April 20, 2022. The remaining seven will be operational by late Summer 2022.
Once you are through security large windows will offer a great view of Delta’s operation at Terminals 2 and 3 and aviation geeks can enjoy the view of planes making their way to and from gates as well get a view of the northern runways with the Hollywood Hills in the background. Right past the security checkpoint is also a flight information board with up-to-date information about departing Delta flights.
When you turn to your left, this will bring you to Terminal 3 and the International Terminal once the connector is finished. Heading to the right will get you to Terminal 2 and the new Delta Sky Club. My mission was to head towards Terminal 2 to get to gate 22 for my simulated departure. However, my journey ended right before I got to the actual terminal as there is still construction going on. We had to drop a card in one of the boxes labeled with different experience levels to give feedback on how we did checking in, passing security, and getting to the gate as part of our passenger profile. After taking some pictures and grabbing a snack our simulated arriving journey started.
There is a restroom right before the Headhouse connects to Terminal 2. It’s a rather small restroom but features all touchless sinks. Labeling was only on the outside of the entrance and when you are not careful you walk in the wrong direction inside and accidentally go to the wrong restroom. This happened to a few passengers during the trial. However, I don’t know what their travel experience level was. Close to the entrance of the regular restrooms is also an All Gender Restroom.
Bigger restroom facilities are located in the check-in hall. All of these restrooms are modern and feature touchless sinks.
A new Delta Sky Club
A new state-of-the-art Sky Club is located on the fourth floor of the central Headhouse. The entrance to the Sky Club is just past security to your right as you would head to Terminal 2. You can’t really miss the entrance to the Sky Club. It will be on your right and the area around the door is covered with wood panels. This will be one of Delta’s most prestigious Sky Clubs in its network. Unfortunately, the Sky Club was closed during the trial event. The location here is perfect as the club will be located centrally between Terminal 2 and 3 and it’s not a lot further to TBIT. The actual lounge area is one level up from where you enter the Sky Club. It encompasses 30,000 square feet and comes with a Sky Deck, an open-air portion of the lounge giving you amazing views of Terminal 2 and 3 as well as the northern runways. I can’t wait to check this one out. Delta’ had outdoor portions for a long time at some Sky Clubs and it is one of the greatest features ever as you not only get to see the airplanes but also be able to hear them.
Arriving at Terminal 2 or 3 and Baggage Claim
Every passenger arriving at either Terminal 2 or 3 will head to the central baggage claim location which is on the lower level of the Headhouse. The exit doors are next to security on the Terminal 2 side of the facility. Once outside, you will head down the same set of escalators departing passengers use to get to the security checkpoint. Once at the Check-In level you have to make another 180 and take another set of escalators down to the baggage claim area. Alternatively, you can use one of the many elevators or stairs. Once you are down the first set of escalators you will have a flight information board which shows which baggage claim carrousel your bags will be on as well as departing flight information. Another information board is found on the baggage claim level.
Passengers arriving on international flights will have a different procedure as they have to clear customs and immigration first.
Once you are at the baggage claim level you can head down a long ramp or take the stairs to get to the actual carrousels. The ceilings are rather low compared to the rest of the headhouse. Also, the smaller windows and the upper driveway block a lot of the natural light. The baggage claim area is still well lit.
Six baggage carousels, numbered 21 through 26 will deliver bags for arriving passengers. The carousels are nicely spread out but as common at U.S. airports, all passengers just run to the front of the belt while waiting for their bags and blocking access for other people actually wanting to get their bags. Not much Delta or anyone can do about that. It’s just common sense and courtesy, which most air travelers seem to forget once they get to the baggage claim. Even marking on the floors doesn’t help as I have seen at other airports. But back to the actual facility here and what Delta built. Delta can’t change people’s mindsets.
Oversized baggage can be claimed near carousel 26, the far end of the baggage claim area when you arrive here from your flight. Right next to the oversized baggage area is also a new baggage service office. You can’t miss it. Besides four manned service counters, there will be also some self-serve kiosks to the right inside the baggage service office. But won’t that just show the same information you can see in the Delta App?
Next to the baggage service desk is another flight information board. There is another set of restrooms in the baggage claim area. The only thing I missed was seating possibilities. Passengers who have to wait for their bags, especially for some unforeseen circumstance, will appreciate this. Construction is still not completely done and maybe this will be added before the Headhouse opens to the public. Oddly enough there were also no luggage carts available in the baggage claim area. I am sure they will be there when the facility opens. It’s almost a must even when very expensive nowadays.
Once you have your bags you can head up either of the ramps to get outside to the terminal driveway. Honestly, I am not a fan of these ramps as I am traveling with three overweight checked bags and the usual two carry-ons. Even so, the ramps are not steep, I don’t like dragging my bags uphill. 😉
Outside family or friends can pull right up to pick you up. You will also have the access to the parking garages across the driveway as well as shuttle busses for off-site parking and the rental car facilities. Once the APM and the new state-of-the-art rental car facility are complete, the automated people mover will take you there. I can’t wait for that experience and see if it’s so much better.
However, right now you still have to go back upstairs to the ticketing level if you want to catch a shuttle bus to a nearby hotel. Yes, that’s LAX for you, not Delta’s fault. The elevators are next to the escalators which you used to get to the baggage claim area.
End of the Sky Way Trial
The Sky Way Trial ended here. We filled out another comment card and dropped it in the appropriate box before the busses took us back to the parking lot where we started off our journey for this trial run. At the parking lot, we received a little goodie bag which included a hat and a $15 discount voucher for the nearby restaurant “Proud Bird”. Unfortunately, the restaurant voucher was only valid for same-day use. I like Proud Bird but I had a business meeting right after the trial and the restaurant closes at 7 p.m.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.