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Everything you need to know about LAX


Everything you need to know about LAX

story by: Tom Ricketts

Los Angeles International Airport is as large as it is busy, but having recently enjoyed a whole raft of refurbishments, particularly in the terminals Kiwi’s frequent, it's now easier to navigate than ever. Still, it’s always reassuring to have vital information up front and before you arrive, so here’s a handy guide on how to work your way in, out and around LAX

LAX is one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. It has a whopping nine terminals, processes over 70 million passengers a year, and receives flights from over 150 different destinations around the world. Simply closing a terminal or runway would not be possible without causing mass flight delays and cancellations. So although renovations have ​been slow, good things come to those who wait - LAX is now up there with all the major (and much loved) airports. 

But before we get too stuck in, it’s important to note that almost all international airlines use the same terminal at LAX, the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). This terminal was the first to undergo renovations and with the first stage complete, there’s now three times as many food outlets, a ‘Great Hall’ of retail stores, roomier gates and even a children’s playground. So if you’re merely connecting onwards to another country, on a foreign airline, you need only to finish this paragraph. The experience is a much improved one from years past, and renovations are continuing all the time. 

When connecting to domestic flights, or if transferring to a US airline, which usually requires a change of terminal. LAX’s other eight terminals are pretty much split between the major US airlines as follows...

Terminal 1 – Southwest.
Terminal 2 – Hawaiian. Also Canadian and Central American flights with Air Canada, WestJet, Aeromexico, Avianca and others.
Terminal 3 – Allegiant, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit and Virgin America.
Terminal 4 – American Airlines.
Terminal 5 – Delta.
Terminal 6 – Alaska and US Airways.
Terminal 7 – United.

Most terminals are not currently connected, so you’ll need to exit TBIT and walk or catch the free shuttle (look for the blue signs saying ‘LAX Shuttle-Airline Connection’) between terminals. Terminals 1-3 are to the left, and 4-7 are to the right.

The domestic terminals can be incredibly busy. But when you consider the USA's current population sits at 318.9 million and LAX is a major airport for many domestic transfers, it runs like a well oiled ​machine. At the moment we recommend around two to three hours between flights at LA, and having even more time up your sleeve is never going to be a bad thing. Some airlines have automatic check in booths, while others still have staff at the desks. Either way, if you allow three hours, you'll be able to breathe easy. 

Security measures change so often that the best advice is to check with your agent a few days prior to departure, or check the TSA website. In general though, it’s a lot stricter than in New Zealand. You will be asked to remove loose clothing (hoodies, jackets etc) and shoes to be x-rayed. 

This all depends on what fare you’ve been booked on. Your travel agent will be able to give you the exact details, but in general, if changing flights then your bags will be subject to a security check. Also, be aware that the American authorities (TSA) love to have a look through your bags, even if you have a padlock on them. TSA will simply cut off the padlock and slap a sticker on your bag explaining what’s happened. Safety first, people - in an airport this busy, such precautions will make you feel much safer. However, you can get special TSA approved padlocks which they can open without destroying. See the TSA website for more details.

If overnighting at the airport, there is an absolute plethora of hotels within the immediate area. That being said, several famous beachside suburbs such as Hermosa Beach, Venice Beach and Santa Monica are not far away. Most airport hotels have complimentary shuttles and there is public transport to the city, Anaheim and San Diego. However, LA is a city made for cars so booking an airport transfer ahead of time or getting a cab is much faster and less stressful.


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