Come Fly With Me: The Reinvention of Waiting at Long Beach Airport

Long Beach Airport Palm Court and North Concourse
Long Beach Airport Palm Court and North Concourse | Photo: psimac | Flickr: Creative Commons License

I went over to take a look at the Long Beach Airport on Lakewood Boulevard the other day. The description "much beloved" is often attached to LGB. Curb to gate in 20 minutes is a real possibility.

Not only unstressful, Long Beach Airport also is a bargain. Because of lower costs for airline services, LGB has some of the cheapest airfares in the nation. (JetBlue flies to Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. US Airways, Delta, and Alaska/Horizon have flights to West Coast and Southwest cities.)

Low-cost, relaxed LGB ... and now quite stylish. New retail and restaurant spaces and other amenities designed by the hot Long Beach architectural firm Studio One Eleven redefine what the airport waiting experience can be.

You might want to re-book to a later flight just to enjoy the longer wait.

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LGB's still-in-progress renovation has preserved the main terminal's WPA-era earnestness and added two pavilions for waiting passengers that are both delightfully Long Beach specific and thoroughly contemporary.

Imagined as a series of indoor/outdoor rooms, it's the sort of airport waiting area that Cliff May might have designed.

Long Beach Airport: Fire Table, 4th and Vine wine bar
Long Beach Airport: Fire Table, 4th and Vine wine bar | Photo courtesy of the Studio one Eleven

The north and south concourse buildings (designed by the architectural firm HOK) link through a palm court edged by patios, a terrace, and a performance space. Inside the concourse buildings, Studio One Eleven (the "parklets" innovators in Long Beach) has lined up retail shops, a walk-though "marché" for grazing diners, a wine bar, coffee and pastry sellers, and a bistro.

Once past the TSA scanners, airline passengers are captives of their waiting room. And concessionaires will make the most of the opportunity with higher prices for food and beverages. At LGB, nearly all the businesses are local and well known in the community. They charge the same prices they do outside the airport's security cordon.


Long Beach Airport Concourse: Marché and iPads
Long Beach Airport Concourse: Marché and iPads | Photo courtesy of the Studio one Eleven

Studio One Eleven (Alan Pullman, AIA, Senior Principal; Michael Bohn, AIA, Principal) emphasizes that its practice is an "architecture of place," which inevitably means at LGB an architecture implicated in the stories of Long Beach. 20s and 30s resort town, 1940s Navy town, 1950s aerospace boomtown, Long Beach has marvelous stories subtly woven into its superbly restored and expanded airport.

Long Beach Airport Concourse: 562 Experience
Long Beach Airport Concourse: 562 Experience

The only problem? No access to the waiting area without a boarding pass. Bummer.

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