What do you look for in an airport terminal? What makes it easy and comfortable for you? Long Beach opens its new terminal this week and the city hopes that their new terminal – a major upgrade from the temporary trailers of the prior iteration – focus on simplicity, accessibility and low costs will make it a big winner in southern California.
The new terminal borrows from its quintessentially SoCal in its design and amenities. Features like outdoor seating rather than just rows of typical airline benches are just one of the many ways they have given local flavor to the facility. They even put in a fire pit. Similarly, the concessions – both restaurants and shopping – are nearly all local brands. Passengers arriving are welcomed with the Southern California vibe and passengers leaving have that local experience extended a few extra hours.
All of the dining concessions are outlets from Long Beach restaurants; no national chains to be found here. Fear not the lack of Wok-n-Roll or Pizza Famiglia. The local shops are quite tasty, at least from the samples being handed out at the ribbon cutting party last week. The 4th Street Vine Bar has a wine steward on staff to help passengers choose a glass of wine to enjoy while waiting for their flight. Or take a meal at McKenna’s, an outpost of the renowned waterfront restaurant. A local sushi bar, cantina, burger joint and bakery (delicious cupcakes) are all available in the terminal, too.
The concessions area will feature a number of modern touches. Power outlets in the seating areas are considered a standard feature for new terminals these days and Long Beach has no troubles there. Both regular and USB outlets are scattered throughout the terminal area, including in the dining areas. For passengers who do not want to wait in line to order a meal there is also the option to use one of the tablet computers to order a meal delivered to the gate area.
Perhaps the most notable thing missing from the new terminal is jet bridges for boarding. With roughly 350 days of sunshine and reasonable temperatures year-round there isn’t all that much need for them. Plus, they’re surprisingly expensive; adding jet bridges in would have nearly doubled the cost of the construction project. It also would have made for a much more complex project and reduced the flexibility the new terminal offers for airlines. Plus, there is something special about walking across the apron area, looking up at the airplane before stepping on board.
The new Long Beach terminal is simple yet still manages to deliver an impressive and welcoming facility for passengers. Providing a better experience from the prior terminal isn’t a terrible challenge. Building out one of the most comfortable, welcoming and efficient terminals in the United States is much greater hurdle. Long Beach has cleared that challenge, delivering a beautiful, functional and local operation.
n.b. – My costs for visiting the terminal opening were covered by the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. At least assuming I mail in the receipts they will be. Doesn’t change my take on the terminal. It is incredibly simple and looks great.