Long Beach Airport Celebrates Opening of a New Consolidated Baggage Claim

Aug. 22, 2023
The Long Beach Airport (LGB) recently opened a new consolidated baggage claim on April 13. The baggage claim is one of six projects in the airport’s terminal area improvement program to enhance the passenger experience.

The Long Beach Airport (LGB) is currently working on phase two of its terminal area improvement program. The program consists of six projects: Component 1A: Checked Baggage Inspection System (CBIS); Component 2: Ticketing Lobby; Component 1B: Baggage Claim Area Improvements; Component 3A: Terminal Renovation Improvements; Component 3B: Rental Car Customer Service Improvements; Component 4: Meet and Greet Plaza. 

Long Beach Airport Engineering Officer Stephan Lum said the overall goal for the program is purely to enhance the passenger experience.

“This program technically does not induce more flights, it doesn't induce more activity. We're slot regulated by our noise ordinance. So, the number of passengers and the number of commercial flights that we can put out daily is really dictated by that noise ordinance. This program is purely to make that passenger experience a little bit more enjoyable,” Lum said. “…And hopefully that'll maintain our reputation of our easygoing airport. And passengers will still continue to choose us as a travel destination and their airport of choice. But that's really the big message of phase two is that even though with all these enhancements and everything, we are still respectful of our noise ordinance.”

In 2017, the airport partnered with Swinerton Builders as the prime contractor and Corgan, the architect of record for this project.

Swinerton Operations Manager Jose Acosta said the project initially required Swinerton to submit three concepts. From those three concepts, the airport narrowed it down to the current design based on the different criteria they had, which was dictated by the EIR which has specific square footages for each component.

“So early on, one of the big challenges when it came to designing this project was really putting the program into a pre-established square footage that we could not go over. So that was the initial step,” Acosta said. “So, after the design concepts were developed and we finalized which one worked for us, we really worked close with engineering department to start the design.”

The program kicked off with the construction of 1A, the Checked Baggage Inspection System (CBIS) followed by the ticketing building which was completed in May.

The most recent completion, a new consolidated baggage claim opened April 13, 2023.

Component 1B: Baggage Claim Area Improvements

Acosta said the new baggage claim was necessary for many reasons. Primarily because the existing bag belts were at the end of their life.

“They were well over 20 years old, and so they were receiving constant maintenance requirements. And a lot of the parts are not built anymore. A lot of the manufacturers that built that old conveyor system aren't in operation anymore,” Acosta said. “…When they were first built, there were three independent claims systems and they were spread out north-south across the terminal campus, which made it not very intuitive for our passengers not knowing which claim device to go to. Some would go to the north, and some would go to the south and realized they had to go vice versa. So, we wanted to definitely, obviously update the system to today's standards. And then two, co-locate everything into one area so it would be more efficient for our passengers.”

Acosta said the new baggage claim device, manufactured by Vanderlande is more intelligent more reliable.

“It’s more intelligent in terms of, we can monitor the system remotely,” Acosta said. “It's got additional capacity with the slope-plane devices. And so, it got some built-in redundancy as well, within the carousel. The carousel is operated by four motors. It can operate, if need be, on two of those motors. So, we've got some built-in redundancy there, which was important for us. Because we only have two carousels now. So being able to keep them up and running at all times is one of our top priorities. Other than that, just increasing the passenger experience for our passengers, being able to go into what looks and feels like a real building really just goes along with our goal of enhancing that experience or that travel experience.”

Components 3A, 3B and 4

Currently, the airport is working on components 3A, 3B and component 4; terminal renovation improvements, rental car customer service improvements, and the meet and greet plaza. All three projects are slotted to be completed in early 2024.

Lum said 3A is a twofold project, “which is a seismic retrofit to the entire building. That's where the terminal buildings, where the old ticketing operations used to operate in. And the executive admin offices also used to be on the second floor. Then we had a couple other airport functions all the way throughout actually. And then the second part of that is not only a restoration to the building of seismic and making it structurally sound, but restoring a lot of the historic elements that had been removed over the years.”

Long Beach Airport is the oldest municipal airport in the state of California, founded in 1923, designed by architects William Chorus and Kenneth Smith Wing.

Lum said a big component of restoring the historic elements is the west facing section of the building, which had previously been blocked off for many decades.

“Our old CBIS used to be in the back-of-house right there in the middle of our plaza. We've moved that to back-of-house operation, out of sight, out of the public area. That opens up the west face of the building. And then that's the exterior side. But the interior of the west face of that terminal building had previously been all of the back office, airline office space. So that area was formally the old waiting room. So, when the terminal building was operating, when it first opened, passengers would come in from the east, go get their ticket and then proceed through the building into the west side of the building. And that's where their boarding lounge or waiting area was before they would leave out the west space and to get on the plane.”

Lum continued, “So that back office space or waiting area hasn't been open to the public for several decades, probably at least four or five decades. And so, we're very excited to restore that open space area to the public as an open lounge area and viewing space. And that'll directly connect to another portion of the project, which is the build-out of the rental car transaction space, which will replace the old ticketing counter. So, there'll still be an airport function within the first floor of the terminal building.”

Swinerton Assistant Project Manager Lacey Cobbs said, “For 3A, we have a few structural components that we're adding to the building to retrofit it, and that includes FRP, so fiber wrap of the existing columns and beams, stopcrete to reinforce some of the existing shear walls that run up the building and then steel BRBs that are going in on the third floor. So that's the main structural upgrades. And then we're just building back to match existing for the historical component.”

Lacey said the historical component adds its own unique set of challenges.

“It's an additional step in the permitting process. So, the building department has a lot of say, and we've been working with a historical consultant. So, there's definitely certain considerations that have to be made to protect the existing conditions,” Cobbs said. “An interesting thing is when we're doing this renovation, anything that we build back, it has to appear slightly different than the existing. So, if we're demoing and building back, it can't look exactly like how it originally looked. There has to be something slightly different.”

Swinerton Superintendent David Cahill said his favorite aspect from the historical building is the mosaic tile, which has more than 1.6 million hand cut tiles.

“I think one of the cool historical, really major defining features in the building is, so when you first walk in this building and first come into this job, there's these really ornate, artistic mosaic tiles that covers the entire first floor of this building with these really cool designs. That's really something you don't see very often in modern structure with these little two by two mosaic tiles everywhere. And one initial challenge we had early on was not only obviously protecting these tiles, but also when we get to expose areas that had been covered up over the years by different airline vendors that had been in there and covered up these beautiful tiles. So, it was a unique experience to be able to see some of these tiles open up for the first time in maybe decades in some cases, and to get those cleaned up and bring it back to its former glory. It's an exciting part about this job to be able to see that once it becomes a fully finished product.”

Challenges and Successes

Cahill said keeping the flow of traffic to the baggage claim devices and units while getting everything in place provided some challenges.

“There’s a period of time where we're removing the operations from the original check baggage area that they had behind the historic building and their comfort level on their existing makeup canopy. So once we open up that ticketing building and that whole operation is now shifting to a new setup, there's a lot of work for us to then start bringing in all of our utilities that are coming in from the south side of the project that we had started on with the ticketing and CBIS building, and then making sure that we're phasing our project in such a way where we had to take out all this old existing infrastructure for the initial CBIS, but still allowing public access to get their existing claim units that were on the north side of the campus and still allow us to continue doing all our work, run all of our new utilities over to the new building.”

Cahill continued, “I think we were able to accomplish that goal with I think very limited hiccups, if any really in terms of customer experience once they left the sterile side of the airport, picked up their bags. Other than the Southwest issues that they had over the holidays, which is a entirely separate matter, but we were constantly focused on making sure that we're having very limited impacts even though we're bringing all this new power and everything that's going to be feeding this new baggage claim building.”

Acosta said one of the things the team did successfully was coming up with unique ideas of how to maintain the baggage claim systems existing in operation while doing the other construction.

“I think that's the tricky part with projects like this that are phased, the team really needs to work together with operations and the design team to really break what should essentially be one building into multiple phases to coordinate permitting, to coordinate the operations that are existing and activating the new while the old is working,” Acosta said.

Lum said despite COVID pushing back the original timeline, the project has overall been very successful thus far.

“We are very excited that the baggage claim is open and operational right now. We feel the design is beautiful and the whole outdoor/indoor feel of our airport really just checks all the boxes in terms of looks, aesthetics and feel,” Lum said. “And as far as the program overall, we're very excited that this program has been going on for the last five, six years now. And it was originally intended to be a much shorter program. But obviously COVID happened and that really affected our airport. Our traffic dropped 95% almost overnight. And that's a lot of anticipated revenue that we were anticipating to help fund the project. And then it vanished, and we really had to rethink our strategies and how we were going to succeed. But fortunately... We did slow down, but we didn't stop the program. And we are in a much better place today. Traffic has returned and passengers are traveling again. And it's really good for us and our partners with Southwest. They're ramping up their schedule. And now we've got three brand new facilities to help support that operation. And we're really looking forward to completing the last three projects and really tying this whole terminal area program up.”