Streamers flew through the air as ceremonial luggage dropped down the chute of Carousel 2 as dozens of people celebrated the long-awaited grand opening of the new baggage claim area at Long Beach Airport on Thursday morning.

The $25 million facility consists of two carousels inside a 11,500-square-foot, open-air, pavilion-style building. The facility consolidates baggage claim, which used to be located in two areas—north and south of the historic terminal building.

“Today is an exciting day,” airport Director Cynthia Guidry said during the event. “This is another thing that builds upon Long Beach Airport’s reputation as being one of the coolest, easiest airports to navigate in the country.”

The space features terrazzo flooring and numerous digital displays that will highlight local attractions and other information for travelers. A 60-foot-long by 12-foot-tall video wall will wrap around the corner of the building beginning this summer to also highlight local attractions, events and other creative content.

The new building is part of the broader $122 million Phase II Terminal Improvement program, which encompasses numerous projects. In April of last year, the new $26 million ticketing lobby opened to the south of the historic terminal building, along with a new 6,545-square-foot checked baggage inspection facility.

Colorful luggage falls down a baggage claim chute.
Ceremonial luggage comes down the chute of Carousel 2 inside the new baggage claim area at Long Beach Airport Thursday, April 13, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The historic terminal building, original to the airport’s 1941 opening, is currently undergoing extensive renovations, upgrades and restorations as part of Phase II. The ground floor of the building previously served as the ticketing lobby but will serve as the new home for car rental companies when it’s completed early next year.

Now that the new baggage claim area is open to travelers, the old facility will be demolished to make way for a new baggage service office, bathrooms and concessions available to pre-security guests, including those there to pick up passengers. That project is slated for completion next year.

“We have a streamlined experience already, when you get into the concourse and our new ticketing lobby, and now we have this beautiful experience that will round out the trip,” Mayor Rex Richardson said. “Our award-winning airport is a valuable asset to the city.”

Richardson highlighted the fact that the slew of airport improvements, including the “big upgrade” for baggage claim, were not paid for using general fund dollars, but rather airport revenue and federal grants.

“This project almost didn’t happen,” City Manager Tom Modica said, noting that work began  amid the coronavirus pandemic, which slashed airport revenue to a fraction of normal levels, with flight activity plummeting over 80% for several months.

Five city officials throw streamers inside the new baggage claim area at Long Beach Airport.
City leaders celebrated the grand opening of the new baggage claim facility at Long Beach Airport Thursday, April 13, 2023. Pictured from left: 5th District Councilmember Megan Kerr, airport Director Cynthia Guidry, Mayor Rex Richardson, 4th District Councilmember Daryl Supernaw and City Manager Tom Modica. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Airport staff was constantly reviewing revenue against budgeted costs for the projects, with timelines being pushed back to account for the loss of incoming money. Last year, the City Council approved the issuance of up to $130 million in bonds to pay off existing debt and cover imminent improvement expenses.

Having overcome these challenges, city leaders were ecstatic Thursday. They all agreed: The airport is a gem, and the recently completed and forthcoming improvements will only make it better—for residents, for the city and for the region.

“Long Beach Airport is a priceless resource for members of our community to conveniently travel,” 4th District Councilmember Daryl Supernaw said. “In both direct and indirect ways, it creates jobs, attracts investment and supports our local economy.”

LGB’s historic terminal building could become a community destination once again

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.