Delta speeds up LAX, Salt Lake City renovation projects during pandemic

May 21, 2020

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Delta Air Lines is not sitting on its laurels waiting for travelers to fly again as the coronavirus pandemic wanes. Instead, the airline has streamlined its fleet and is working with airports in Los Angeles, New York and Salt Lake City to open major terminal projects ahead of schedule.

Works at Los Angeles (LAX) and Salt Lake City (SLC) airports could open as much as two years early thanks to the expected long-term drop in passenger numbers, Delta president Glen Hauenstein told staff in a May 20 virtual town hall that was viewed by TPG. The airline is also working on “innovative solutions” to accelerate the redevelopment of Terminals C and D at New York LaGuardia (LGA).

Completing any of the three projects early would benefit both flyers and the airline. Customers can look forward to refreshed, expanded spaces like in the new concourse Delta opened at LaGuardia in October. At the same time, shorter construction schedules will save the carrier millions of dollars at a time when every cent counts.

“With the drop in demand, we see an opportunity to lower the overall [airport] construction costs and deliver it sooner than planned,” Delta chief financial officer Paul Jacobson told investors at a Wolfe Research Conference on May 19.

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A rendering of Delta's renovated Terminals 2 and 3 at LAX. (Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines)
A rendering of Delta’s renovated Terminals 2 and 3 at LAX. (Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines)



Delta is in the midst of a $1.9 billion rebuild of Terminals 2 and 3 at LAX. The project will create a single unified terminal, dubbed the “Sky Way,” with two concourses connected inside security as well as to the adjacent Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Delta aims to finish the project by late 2022 or early 2023 thanks to the drop in travel, said Hauenstein. The original project timeline called for work to be complete by 2024.

Heath Montgomery, a spokesperson for LAX operator Los Angeles World Airports, told TPG that they are in discussions with Delta on accelerating the Terminals 2 and 3 work but that there is no agreement yet.

Aside from Delta’s work, a major overhaul of many of the passenger facilities at LAX is underway. American Airlines is upgrading Terminals 4 and 5, Southwest Airlines is connecting Terminals 1 and 2, and the airport itself is putting the finishing touches on a new Midfield Satellite Concourse. A new automated people mover that will connect the terminals with the Los Angeles Metro light rail is also under construction.

Related: Delta sending Airbus A350s to Los Angeles, will close Cincinnati pilot base


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Salt Lake City International terminal construction aerial (opening ~2020), by HOK. ???? @slcairport. #airportarchitecture

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Salt Lake City is rebuilding its complex of multiple terminals and concourses that dates to 1960. The new facility, dubbed “The New SLC,” will consolidate airlines into a single terminal with two concourses, similar to the layout of Delta’s McNamara Terminal in Detroit (DTW).

The first phase of the work is due to open this fall with the second phase scheduled to come online by 2024. Based on Hauenstein’s comments, the second phase of work could wrap as early as 2022.

Nancy Volmer, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake City airport, told TPG that the airport has accelerated work on phase two. The airport can proceed with demolition of two concourses unneeded amid the COVID-19 drop in air traffic and begin construction of the new facility early.

Salt Lake City was Delta’s fourth-largest hub by passenger numbers in 2019, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data via Cirium. Delta considers it one of its four “core” hubs that also include Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP).

Related: What to expect when flying into the US during the coronavirus pandemic

(Photo by Zach Wichter/The Points Guy)
The first new concourse of Delta’s $3.9 billion Laguardia rebuild opened in October. (Photo by Zach Wichter/The Points Guy)



The $3.9 billion upgrade at LaGuardia airport is the single costliest airport project in Delta’s history. As originally laid out, the work includes a careful choreographed dance of construction and demolition over nine years — or by 2026 — to minimize any impact to travelers and keep the airline’s flights moving.

“We’re working on innovative solutions for LaGuardia,” Hauenstein told staff without providing specifics. “We’ll take a significant amount of time and bring some of the customer-facing improvements earlier in the process.”

As in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Delta could accelerate the demolition of some of its concourses at LaGuardia to begin construction sooner. However, rules that govern slot usage at the airport could hamper its efforts to reduce flights over an extended period. Those rules have been temporarily suspended through May 31.

Related: Is construction at LaGuardia getting faster or slower?

The phasing of Delta Air Lines' terminal C/D redevelopment project at New York LaGuardia. Source New York Transportation Development Corporation.
The phasing of Delta Air Lines’ terminal C/D redevelopment project at New York LaGuardia. Source New York Transportation Development Corporation.


Delta cut departures from LaGuardia to as few as 15 a day in April during the depths of the pandemic. Some flights have since returned with nonstop connections to major cities that are not also among the airline’s hubs due to begin returning in June and July, said Hauenstein. 

The carrier has consolidated its New York-area operations at New York John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia and Newark Liberty (EWR) airports. It has suspended flights to outlying Newburgh Stewart (SWF) and White Plains (HPN) through at least September.

Delta was the largest at LaGuardia carrying 41% of airport passengers in 2019, BTS data via Cirium shows.

Related: Delta’s new concourse is a tantalizing preview of the LaGuardia renovation


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New York LaGuardia new Concourse G (opens 2019), by Corgan. ???? @zlwichter. #airportarchitecture

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Featured image courtesy of Delta Air Lines.


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