Delta Could Soon Be The Dominant Carrier At LAX

Filed Under: Delta

LAX is an airport which American, Delta, and United would all like to dominate, but none have been able to. That’s primarily due to the limitations on gate and terminal space, as the airport consists of several smaller terminals, with the three legacies each having their “own” space.


Nonetheless airlines have been wanting to grow at LAX, and have been investing extensively in their products. Most recently, American announced their expansion at LAX, where they added a dozen new routes, and also announced that they would be building two more gates. With the new flights, American will operate more than 220 daily flights to more than 70 cities.

On top of that, American is turning LAX into their Pacific gateway. In addition to their previous services to Shanghai and Tokyo Narita, American has recently added (or is in the process of adding) flights to Auckland, Hong Kong, Sydney, Tokyo Haneda, and hopefully Beijing.

So American was looking like they’d take the lead at LAX, and they’re doing everything they can to create the impression that they’re LA’s hometown airline.

However, it looks like the tides may be turning, as Delta has requested to greatly expand their presence at LAX. LAX is in the process of undergoing a major refresh, which will potentially see many airlines switching terminals.

As part of that, Delta has requested to move from Terminals 5 & 6 to Terminals 2 & 3 at LAX.

Hainan-Airlines-LAX-Lounge - 16
Terminal 2 at LAX

Per Brian Sumers, Delta could eventually control between 22 and 27 gates at LAX:

Under the plan, Delta eventually could control between 22 and 27 gates in Terminals 2 and 3, a source familiar with the tentative plans said. Delta would also have access to gates at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. This is a big improvement from today. I’m told Delta now controls 13 gates in Terminal 5 with access to a few more in Terminal 6.

Today, I understand Terminals 2 and 3 have a combined 23 gates, but apparently there could be room for more.

Brian shares the map which LAX is distributing regarding what the airport could look like after 2020, when the refresh is done (it’s worth noting that the Delta move could happen much sooner than that):


It goes without saying that this would represent a huge undertaking, as there are many airlines which would have to relocate, including Air Canada, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Virgin America, and over a dozen other airlines.


But LAX seems behind the idea, so I’m curious to see what happens. I can’t even begin to imagine what a mess this whole transition would be. I also imagine American and United aren’t especially excited about the idea. 😉

Bottom line

It’s great to see the growth at LAX, and especially that the long term plan for the airport is that there will be airside connectors between all terminals (the connector which recently opened between Terminal 4 and Tom Bradley International Terminal is already a huge help). I’m curious to see if Delta’s plan gets approved, in which case they’d almost certainly be the undisputed leader at LAX.

What do you make of Delta’s plan to switch terminals at LAX?

  1. @Chao My guess would be that as part of the “refresh” and the move, DL would insist (make happen) a bridge between T2 and T3 … and from T3 to TBIT.

  2. Delta cannot become the dominant airline at LAX. The future gates map fails to mention that AA now has 14 gates at T4, will have 15 gates next month, will have 4 gates and TBIT, and has 9 gates at the Eagle’s nest. So while Delta might have between 22 and 27, shared with AM, VS and others, American has 32 to itself.

  3. Ok this is getting ridiculous. What are the airlines actually thinking? When was the last time anyone actually said, “Gee, I really want to connect through LAX?” If every airline keeps increasing capacity at LAX, it will be even more of a cluster than it already is, and when people talk about how bad traffic in LA is, they’ll be referring to air traffic instead of the 405.

  4. And to add to the above, AA will also be getting a 5th (narrowbody) gate at TBIT. So that’s 33. Plus it has one inactive gate that it can build-out if it wants, from the settlement when it moved from the old Eagle’s terminal to the current (former United) one. So that’s 34 gates that American has for itself, compared to 22-27 gates that Delta will share with select SkyTeam partners. This article should be amended to reflect that reality.

  5. The article should be corrected. While I realize, Ben, you were just reporting another news story, that article grossly miscounted AA’s gates at LAX.

  6. “they’d (Delta) almost certainly be the undisputed leader at LAX.”

    This was written either by a fool or a liar.

    Leadership is neither certain or even possible. AA controls the most gates now and will continue to do so. If DL vacates T5, AA “certainly” will take over even more gates there.

    LAX is unique animal. Because its traffic is spread among several major carriers, no carrier will ever be “dominant.”

    Crap like this article disrespects the reader and does worse to its writer.

  7. @Andrew B – Don’t think anybody is thinking about it from a connections standpoint. LAX is already the busiest O&D airport in the world with a high level of premium traffic. That premium traffic is only going to increase with the growth of firms in the Silicon Beach and Playa Vista areas.

  8. I was looking forward to going from my arrival flight at TBIT to Terminal 4 but there didn’t appear to be a way to use it after clearing customs and the baggage transfer desk – had to leave the secured area, walk along the road and re-enter from the outside and clear security again. Did I miss something?

  9. Back in November LAWA held a closed door session with the discussion of the whole DL and AA moved. AA had been in discussions for more gate space. The airport wants to build a new midfield terminal where AA has its maintenance hangar. The idea of a DL switch was discussed. AA would then operate out of terminal 4, 5 and tbit. The eagle nest would go away and all AA flights would operate within those terminals. DL had been approached in early December with the option. The move wouls give DL more gates. However AA would still have more gates than DL. The move would also allow easier access to AS . It will be an interesting scenario. More information can be found on the LAWA website under archives.

  10. Somebody please tell Delta to leave my (our) airport alone. I have some loyalty ties and I am not so fond of delta…. : /
    Rant is over.

  11. I would be happy to connect in LAX for one, if I’m flying Cathay in biz. LAX has a great Oneworld lounge, while the lounges in Chicago, DFW and SFO suck. Plus Cathay has 4x flights per day, and if AA adds more to Asia it’ll be the best hub in terms of choices of routing.

  12. Virgin Atlantic is already in Terminal 2 and it makes connecting easier for those flying VS and Delta. The VS Clubhouse at LAX T2 is sleek and modern as well, though it doesn’t have showers. :/

  13. Well AA needs to pay attention to Delta since there is clearly a difference in the quality of the product. The customer service at AA in general is exceptionally awful so it’s no wonder that Delta is having their way with AA at LAX.

  14. Whoa, all the fAAnboys are getting touchy, touchy!

    Bottom line: until this plan starts to have some teeth to it, we just won’t know how many gates the carriers are going to have in total. But any dreams American had of dominating LAX are vanquished. Through its merger with USAirways (another subpar airline offering meh service), AA gained a bit of an upper hand at LAX, but thankfully LAWA intends to right the ship so that carriers offering superior service, reliability and operational performance (like Delta) can help make LAX the airport Southern California deserves.


  15. The “current” gates at T6 don’t reflect DL’s presence there. As a DL elite, I’m more concerned about a transition period, where DL has some T5 gates and some in T2 or T3. It’s bad enough that I come in on a commuter in T6, and have to walk that tunnel to T5 for my longer leg… taking a shuttle bus halfway around the airport would be worse.

  16. @Nick
    Absolutely not. Neither LAWA nor any governmental agency can show the favoritism you imply. that’s simply illegal and would result in huge lawsuits immediately.

  17. As others have said, the original story didn’t accurately capture American’s gate count at LAX, now or in the future. Between T4, the Eagle’s Nest, and TBIT, American has the largest share of gates of any single carrier today AND under this new plan.

    The article (and the image in it) didn’t account for the Eagle’s Nest satellite, which has nine regional jet gates. I’m sure AA would love to consolidate those flights in T5 when Delta vacates it and end the bus rides out to the satellite. They hold somewhat of a trump card, in that their superbay hangar is blocking future expansion of TBIT’s midfield concourse. LAWA has a vested interest in keeping AA happy, and I expect they’ll get more than just four gates in T5 after Delta moves out.

    Delta’s move is an attempt to keep up with American, not a means of passing them. Moving into T2/T3 gives them a fighting chance – always good for consumers.

  18. The idea of DL relocating appears good on paper, provided T2/3 were to be completely rebuilt from the bottom up and integrated into a single facility

    Compared with every other structure T3 is dire

    Technicaly the parking structures just south of t3 and east of TBIT could be demolished and a new landside structure built with walkways over world way to T2/3.

    The vehicle access to the front of the building is already there and just needs widening

    The proposed transit and station would have to be repositioned

    Having spent a fortune on redeveloping t5 delta isn’t going to relocate easily without a partial rebuild to include a large new sky club

    Terminals 2-3 could easily be renumbered 2
    TBIT potentially 3. T4-5 become T4 , T6 remains and T7-8 simply T7

  19. Alaska or Virgin America will have to switch with someone. The merger gets a combined 12 gates.

  20. @Simon @James S: You guys don’t seem to understand that this plan envisions demolishing the “Eagle’s Nest” remote terminal, so you’re inventing gates AA won’t have in order to inflate its presence there (for some reason).

  21. @Nick Nobody is failing to understand that. The Eagle Nest will not be destroyed absent AA getting 1:1 replacement gates. And that is in fact AA’s plans: replace Eagle gates 1:1 with T5 gates.

  22. Wow…it is amazing how touchy people are getting over airlines…it is almost as bad as when people start talking about “their” sports teams.

    Like someone mentioned, Delta just went through a major overhaul of their lounge in Terminal 5, along with the general overhaul of Terminal 5 right? Kind of weird they would move so soon after so much capital investment. I didn’t realize how hard it was to travel between terminals until I saw the posted map, and all I can say is now I understand the hate for LAX.

  23. With the existing layout of LAX:
    keep Southwest in T 1. Move American to T 2-3. Delta to T 4. Alaska to T5 with the other non major carriers operating here. United keep T 6.
    This will balance out the traffic of traveling passengers along with ground and air traffic flowing in and out of the north and south complex along with easier access to each owns major airline maintenance facility.

  24. T2 and T3 DL.
    T4 and T5 AA.
    T6 AS an VX.
    Smaller airlines will be spread out in T5, T6, and maybe T3 or T2.

  25. People you are forgetting about the new midfield terminal which is to be build behind tbit. That will accomodate the low cost carriers and other international carries displaced with all the moves. LAWA has the info on their website.

  26. ummm, nobody can said to be “dominant” when AA has 28, DL has 22, UA has 20, WN has 13 and there are a whole host of other competitors including a soon-to-be-merged AS-VX. that is why fares are so competitive at LAX as opposed to the many hub fortress airports where one airline has 50%+ of the traffic.

    what is disturbing is the lack of usage at secondary airports in California as compared to elsewhere. London has 4(!) airports, Paris has 2, Tokyo has 2 … and here in the USA NYC has 3, WAS/BWI has 3, and MIA/FLL are fairly interchangeable. But BUR/ONT/LGB are grossly underutilized, as is the case with SJC/OAK and DAL & HOU in Texas. Air traffic delays could be greatly reduced if we made better usage of these facilities, not to mention reduction in traffic.

    capacity controls would help, even better just adjust landing fees and let the free market work things out. though of course it would help to have better transit connections as is the case in other cities, particularly europe.

  27. I hope they tear down and rebuild terminal 3 before they move in. As far as Terminal 2 goes, it was built as cheap as possible. Terminal 5 is so much nicer. Perhaps one of the best terminal in the airport.

  28. Seems to me a lot of comments are based on wishful thinking. Eliminate the American philes and phobes, and the Delta philes and phobes, and you see a logical solution being proposed by Delta/LAWA. Delta has proposed to demolish T2 and T3 and replace it with a modern terminal encompassing 30+ gates for Delta, SkyTeam, and Virgin Atlantic, plus gates at TBIT. American ends up with T4 and part of T5 for One World, plus gates at TBIT. Ultimately, American could end up with all of T5 after the new midfield terminal is built. The odd man out is United without a consolidated area for Star carriers. However, United seems to be cutting back at LAX in favor of SFO anyway.

    BTW – the proposal with LAWA does include closing the Eagle’s Nest.

  29. AA sucks and Delta will definitely be taking over LAX. Their already the official airline for the Lakers, Kings and the grammys. Sorry americn loses this one.

  30. PS the reason why terminal 5 is so nice is because Delta, not LAX, spent their own money on that terminal. Imagine when, not if, when they get terminal 2 and 3, how much nicer it’ll be. And American has too much debt to worry about to make any major moves whereas Delta has all the advantages.

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