LAX and United Agree to Free Up Gates

Last Updated Feb 11, 2009 10:37 AM EST

After years of fighting, Los Angeles International Airport and United have finally agreed to resolve their differences. The result finally opens up more gates at LAX and has the potential to improve the passenger experience all around.

For a long time, LAX has had a problem with squatters. Some airlines lease their own terminals at the airport, and they've severely underutilized gates in the process. Since LAX actually has a hard cap on the number of gates it is allowed to operate, this becomes a very important problem to solve. United has long been one of those squatters as its ever-shrinking operation stretched across Terminals 6, 7, and 8. That has finally been resolved.

Here are the terms of the deal:

  • United will release four gates in Terminal 6
  • United Express will be allowed to continue operating its props at Terminal 8 instead of a remote terminal as previously demanded
  • United will turn over its customs facility to LAX operator LAWA (it will continue to use it)
  • LAWA will pay United $35 million
This is a very exciting turn of events for the airport, despite the cost. Those extra four gates in Terminal 6 combined with the airport being able to offer the customs facility to other airlines could be music to the ears of Alaska Airlines. Alaska passengers have long suffered when arriving internationally by being forced to land at the Bradley Terminal despite the rest of the airline's operation being at Terminal 3. With these newly opened gates, Alaska could look at relocating to Terminal 6 where it could have its entire operation. (This is all purely speculation.)

No matter what, LAX has four more gates than before that it can market to new or existing carriers which are looking to expand service. That's great news for everyone except United, but with $35 million in the bank, they won't be crying either.