Southwest's New Terminal at LAX Is Like a Mini Trip to LA in Itself

Opening of the new Southwest terminal at LAX
Photo: Courtesy of Harriet Baskas

What does more than half a billion dollars get you at Los Angeles International Airport?

From a first look at the new and improved 13-gate Southwest Airlines Terminal 1, quite a lot.

Southwest invested $516.7 million to make over what a newsstand clerk described as “a boring, bland totally nothing of a terminal” dating back to the early 1980s.

The new terminal is a light- and art-filled space with a fresh check-in/ticketing lobby, nine-lane security checkpoint, and more than 20 new dining and retail outlets, many of them unique and well-loved local brands.

Trejo's Tacos at LAX
Courtesy of Harriet Baskas

The terminal’s dozen dining options now include Beaming Organic Superfood Café, Rock & Brews (a dining chain founded by KISS band members), the Urth Caffé (an organic café from Manhattan Beach), and LA’s iconic Cassell’s Hamburgers. T1 now also features the first airport branch of Trejo’s Tacos, a local taqueria from actor Danny Trejo, who joined LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, and others at a recent ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the curb-to-gate terminal makeover.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony at LAX's new Southwest terminal
Courtesy of Harriet Baskas

“Working together with Southwest Airlines and our partners, what we have created is more than a terminal that connects passengers to flights — it’s a destination in its own right,” Garcetti said.

“It is truly a transformation,” Kelly added, noting that the carrier offers 133 departures a day to 32 cities out of Terminal 1’s 13 gates. “If there’s a better facility in the United States, I wouldn’t believe it.”

Shopping and pampering options range from MAC Cosmetics, Be Relax spa, and SOL Surf to I Love LA, Treat Me Sweet candy, and a fun newsstand called, appropriately enough, New Stand, that offers travel essentials and a charming assortment of California-themed souvenirs. Marvin’s Complimentary Shoeshine (pay what you wish; tips encouraged) has a stand here as well.

Photo friendly art installation at the new Southwest terminal at LAX
Courtesy of Harriet Baskas

As passengers enter the terminal after security, they’re met with both permanent and rotating art installations, including a selfie-friendly, sunset-inspired work by Pilar Castillo commissioned by Southwest to celebrate the new terminal. Nearby is the first airport branch of LA Original, a store selling LA-branded products designed, assembled, or manufactured locally, with proceeds going to programs that help women transitioning out of homelessness.

What’s next? Construction on Terminal 1.5 is underway to create a connecting structure between Terminals 1 and 2 that will give Southwest passengers access to the LAX automated people mover expected to be operational in 2023.

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