An open letter to Mayor Garcetti about Los Angeles International Airport

Mayor Eric Garcetti
City of Los Angeles
200 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mayor Garcetti,

I am a citizen of Los Angeles and travel internationally from Los Angeles International Airport three or four times a year.

When I return to Los Angeles, I usually go through the international arrivals area in Terminal 2. This includes the immigration and customs area in the airport. Each time I use these facilities I say to myself that the décor and presentation is a temporary feature as they prepare to upgrade the facility. However, the next time I use them, they are in the same state or even worse shape than they were before. Each time, as I am waiting in the long line snaking in front of immigration, down hallways and then in to side rooms due to over capacity, I see the faces of my fellow travelers. For some, we are Angelenos and are accustomed to our run down, disregarded city somehow getting by. For others – fresh faces to the Pacific coast and Los Angeles – this is their first taste of the United States, of California, of Los Angeles. And for that, I have to say that it’s probably the worst brand experience that any city could offer a visitor who is planning to spend money at, invest in and /or tell friends about this city and region.

From the dirty carpet and low ceilinged claustrophobic staircase and escalator going down to the immigration and customs area, the signage displayed in the immigration and customs area is amateur, hand written, unbalanced and applied with tape while the immigration and customs desks are dirty and scuffed . Many of the signs conveying messages of authority are handwritten while they should convey trust, confidence, and quality using clear communication. They do none of these – at all – so why should anyone really adhere to them? Not even signs of welcome (although I see one of you in front of LACMA as people walk from customs to the outside arrivals area) are noticeable. Frankly, this area is an embarrassment for the citizens and business people of this region. It is not portraying us as good as it could be done – at a low cost. Image and first taste are everything and we are putting a very poor foot forward.

Once you leave Terminal 2 arrivals and attempt to catch a taxi, it’s an even worse representation of how we in Los Angeles and America operate. The taxi line is chaotic and unmarked. It crosses a pedestrian crossing area with a ramp so it becomes awkward to be waiting in it. The person running the line when we were there had no real interest in calling the right kind of cars (vans for families) required for those in line so those of us in line were at the mercy of whatever shows up. Once the right cab was secured (about 30 minutes after leaving arrivals) we got into it and it smelt and the décor of the taxi was poor. For example, the seats had packing tape all over them to cover the holes. How can a car like this be allowed to operate in the city of Los Angeles? This is especially the case when it’s picking up people at the airport who are likely to be visitors to the city. No wonder people are using non-city regulated services like Uber more and more. This consumer choice for the competition is just lowering the revenue the city earns from these transportation services.

Fundamentally, it comes down to presentation. Along with the complete overhauls of some terminals, I appreciate the work being done on the outside of the LAX terminals like the construction of LAX’s a $118 million Central Terminal Area (CTA). But, I am not sure that they are in that great of a need in updating. It’s the signage and interior of some of the terminals and the cars picking up visitors that need to be addressed first. I am not suggesting a commissioned remodel of these facilities. What is needed in the near term is some simple updating and normalizing done at a low cost by the right people that will make the difference as LAX facilities are gradually being updated throughout.

Cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, the Airports Commission and the Taxi Commission has to be done so that this user experience and presentation of our city at LAX is adjusted to one of pride and honor rather than scrappiness and neglect. There’s too much talent in this image-oriented city to let ourselves to be presented in this manner. I hope this can be addressed in 2014.


Alistair Jeffs



Gina Marie Lindsey – Executive Director of Los Angeles World Airports
Tom Drischler – Taxicab Administrator, Taxicab Regulation Division, Los Angeles
Mike Bonin – Los Angeles City Council District 11


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