It is the third busiest airport in the country and the sixth busiest in the world.
And many travelers dread coming here.
"Sorry for the lines," said a curbside baggage handler Friday morning as packs of travelers and piles of luggage poured on to the departure level at Los Angeles International Airport.
Gina Marie Lindsey hopes to change groans into grins, as much as that is possible at any major airport.
"This will be a place where people want to stop," said Lindsey, who is executive director of Los Angeles World Airports. LAWA is spending more than $4 billion to renovate facilities to stay competitive, and nearly half of that—$1.9 billion—is being used to give the Tom Bradley International Terminal a makeover.
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"We have 17 new food dining concepts that have never been in an airport before, and nine shopping opportunities that have never been in an airport before," Lindsey said of the massive new terminal. Retailers include Michael Kors, Gucci, Porsche Designs and Fred Segal. An Apple store is coming.
Retailers will share as much as 32 percent of revenues with the airport, Lindsey said, and the entire terminal has been designed to look like a wave from the Pacific. It is filled with new technology, including laser-guided docking tools for pilots coming to its gates.
But the real reason the international terminal needed updating is to accommodate the double-decker A380s many international carriers are now using.
"We now have six A380s a day. By this time next year I think we'll have 10 A380s a day," said Lindsey. "Without these gates, these airplanes were having to park at a remote gate off by the beach and be bused in to the terminal, which is not exactly the kind of hospitality that Los Angeles wants to offer."
Airlines do have more choices these days. With the longer range of many modern jets, carriers can often fly over Los Angeles and bring their sought after international travelers directly to destinations further inland.
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While the renovations at LAX will mean higher landing fees and terminal rentals for the airlines, Lindsey hopes they find the costs worth it. "No longer are we going to be the tired airport where everybody just kind of rolls their eyes and say, 'I don't want to have to stop at LAX.' "
—By CNBC's Jane Wells. Follow her on Twitter: @janewells.