Behind the Scenes at LAX

A good piece in Los Angeles Times on the ins-and-outs of how LAX, the world’s seventh busiest airport, is run:

Terminals 4 and 5 are where mega-players American and Delta lease space from the Los Angeles World Airport and, by virtue of their size, run these areas as if they were their own.

Then there are Terminals 1, 2 and 3, co-ops really, where smaller airlines share what feels like a shoe box.

Annual passenger volume is still below what it was before 9/11: 61 million now, 67 million then. Yet the airport, which is celebrating 50 years of jet travel, makes more than $100 million in profit annually on fees it charges airlines to use its facilities.

It sounds like the airport is run like a governmental agency:

Open since December, the Airport Response Coordination Center, or ARCC, is the airport’s central nervous system. Operators here control the stoplights outside the terminals to regulate vehicle flow. From here, an incident desk deploys plumbers to the flood in a restroom in Terminal 2 or a leaky water fountain in Terminal 3.

In a smaller room steps away, a police officer checks hundreds of surveillance cameras that monitor entrances, checkpoints and runways. Zooms in, zooms out, tilts down, pans left. What’s he looking for? Anomalies. Anything that doesn’t make sense in the normal flow of a gigantic airport.

I’d be very interested to read profiles of other major airports, such as that of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, New York’s JFK, or Tokyo’s Narita.

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(hat tip: @matthiasrascher)

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