Nestled close to the gorgeous Santa Monica Bay lies the Los Angeles International Airport, often called the international gateway to the US. Sprawled over 6000 acres and with 9 terminals, LAX always bustles with activity. The airport has seen up to 61,400 passengers a day, even during pandemic times! This makes finding your way around the Los Angeles Airport a tad challenging, even for regular flyers. In our Los Angeles Airport guide, we’ll be sharing all you need to know about getting around LAX.
About Los Angeles International Airport
The Los Angeles International Airport is located in Westchester, around 18 miles from Downtown Los Angeles. LAX is the world’s third-busiest airport and America’s second-busiest airport. The airport offers 737 nonstop flights daily to 100 domestic locations and 1,386 weekly nonstop flights to 88 cities in 44 countries. LAX is served by 69 airlines, including all major airlines. There are also around 23 cargo-only airlines that operate at LAX.
LAX Airport has nine passenger terminals with 146 gates laid out in the shape of a horseshoe. All of these, except the Tom Bradley International Terminal, are identified by numbers.
There are approximately 7,000 LAX Airport parking stalls spread across eight parking structures in the Central Terminal Area.
Currently, LAX is bang in the middle of a whopping $15 billion redevelopment project that began in 2009 and is expected to be completed in 2023. Some major enhancements include an automated people mover to shuttle passengers between terminals and Metro Rail lines, a new car rental center, and road improvements to ease traffic congestion.
Even though the airport is well-organized, not all of the terminals are connected to one another. Therefore, aircraft connections can be time-consuming. Because you may have to go through security again for onward travel.
LAX Airport Terminals
Here’s your guide on where you’ll need to go based on the airlines you are traveling on.
Tom Bradley International Terminal
There’s plenty of international airlines that fly in and out of Tom Bradley Terminal. These include Aeroflot, Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui, Air Italy, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways, Asiana, Austrian, Avianca (arrivals), British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, China, China Eastern, China Southern, Copa (arrivals), EVA, El Al Israel, Emirates, Etihad, Fiji Airways, Finnair, Hainan, Iberia, Interjet (arrivals), Japan, KLM Royal Dutch, Korean, LAN (Chile), LAN (Peru), LOT Polish, Lufthansa, Nippon Airways, Norwegian Air, Philippine, Qantas, Qatar, Saudia, Scandinavian, Singapore, Volaris, and Xiamen.
Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) has 18 gates, nine on the north concourse and nine on the south. On the west side of LAX, there are nine satellite gates for international flights. Buses take passengers to the west side gates. Tom Bradley International Terminal hosts the most number of international carriers at LAX, except those at Terminal 2. Tom Bradley has some of the best amenities, plus food and drink options at LAX Airport. So you might want to wend your way over here if you are in for a long layover.
Although Southwest is the only airline that operates out of Terminal 1, check-in for Allegiant Air, Frontier, Sun Country, and VivaAerobus is located here.
This terminal plays host to several international airlines, including Aerolitoral, Aer Lingus, Aeromexico, Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and WestJet.
Only one airline flies out of Terminal 3 (temporarily closed) – Delta.
American Airlines is the only airline in LAX Terminal 4.
Air Canada American, American Eagle, Hawaiian Air, Jet Blue, and Spirit are among the airlines that fly into and out of Terminal 5.
Air Canada, Alaska, Boutique Air, Horizon, and Southern Air are among the airlines that fly into and out of Terminal 6.
United Airlines (including United Express) is the only airline that operates out of Terminal 7.
This terminal also plays host only to United Airlines (including United Express).
How to get to LAX Airport
Despite the airport being a little away from LA, there are numerous ways to get to and from LAX. Airport shuttles, Uber, Lyft, or other ride-sharing services are all inexpensive ways to get to the airport. If you’re looking to skimp even more on travel expenses taking public transportation or a regular bus service would be a more cost-effective choice.
A free shuttle service connects LAX to the Metro Rail Green Line light rail, while another free shuttle bus transports passengers between airline terminals.
The LAX FlyAway bus service provides nonstop service between LAX and Union Station and other points throughout the city. However, if it’s convenience that you want, you might want to choose a black car service that will pick you up at the curb.
You also have the option of driving down in your own car, which is both inexpensive and convenient as long as you prebook your LAX Airport parking spot. For all the amenities that the airport offers, it does fall a little bit short when it comes to an adequate number of onsite LAX Airport parking spots.
Veteran LAX flyers will tell you how much easier and cheaper it is to prebook an offsite parking spot at one of the nearby lots. Some offsite lots even offer valet parking services, making it the most convenient way to get to and from LAX.
The LAX FlyAway bus provides regularly scheduled round trips seven days a week between LAX and Union Station, Long Beach, Hollywood or Van Nuys. Each bus is labeled with its service location and can be boarded on the Lower/Arrivals Level, directly in front of each terminal. Buses pick up and drop off passengers directly in front of the terminals. Tickets can be purchased both online and in person.
All ride-sharing pickups happen at the ‘LAX-it’ lot, which is located close to Terminal 1. So if you wish to use a Uber or Lyft after your arrival at LAX, you must take a shuttle or walk to this lot, regardless of your arrival terminal. On the other hand, drop-offs continue to take place in front of the passengers’ individual terminals.
LAX cell phone waiting lot
The cell phone waiting lot is ideal for LAX Airport arrivals. If you are picking up a passenger, please use the 24-hour LAX Cell Phone Waiting Lot. The cell phone waiting lot allows vehicles to wait for LAX Airport arrivals free of charge until the passengers call to say that they are ready to be picked up.
LAX Airport Departures
Passengers should arrive at LAX two hours before the departure time of a domestic flight and three hours before the departure time of an international aircraft.
LAX Airport Arrivals
By default, flight arrivals are on the lower level, while departures are on the upper level at LAX.
Things to do at LAX Airport
LAX, like most international airports, has free Wi-Fi throughout the terminals and water-bottle refill stations. There are three pre-security animal relief spaces and one airside at every terminal (except Terminal 8) for anyone traveling with a pet or emotional support animal. For those of you who miss your pets back home, LAX offers some respite!
Therapy dogs welcome passengers at various LAX terminals and on the ground floor of the Theme Building for a few hours each week as part of the airport’s Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPs) program. There are also various permanent and rotating art exhibits and live performances as part of the “LAX Presents” series throughout the airport.
Because Los Angeles is a retail mecca, the airport, one would imagine, offers the same. When it comes to shopping, the Tom Bradley International Terminal delivers, and how! Tom Bradley’s Great Hall is a veritable shopping paradise, with a Rodeo Drive-inspired retail boutique and duty-free shopping section. Hugo Boss, Bvlgari, Burberry, Coach, Fred Segal, Victoria’s Secret, Gucci, Hermes, Tumi, and other brands can be found here.
Other terminals offer comparatively limited options. However, multiple MAC Cosmetics stores, DFS Duty-Free stores, See’s Candies stores, a Kiehl’s store, and numerous newsstand-type retailers.
Although the airport’s distinctive Theme Building no longer serves meals in the Encounter restaurant, there is still an observation deck. The deck is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the second weekend of each month (Saturdays and Sundays). Aviation history buffs should visit the Flight Path Museum. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and is free to enter.
Other than a whole lot of flying memorabilia, the museum boasts a Douglas DC-3 parked on the airport’s tarmac (you can go inside it!). The museum also offers exceptional views of aircraft takeoffs and landings on the south runway complex.
Airport Lounges at LAX
There are 21 lounges at the airport. Some lounges are only available to travelers flying first-class or elite tier frequent flyer members. Several lounges, however, offer day passes to travelers in all cabins (subject to capacity allowance).
Some of the lounges you’ll find at the airport include
- Delta Sky Club
- Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
- Etihad First and Business Class Lounge
- Emirates Lounge
- Korean Air KAL Lounge
- Los Angeles International Lounge
- Oneworld Business Lounge
- Star Alliance Lounge
- Qantas International First Lounge
- American Airlines Admirals Club
- Air Canada Maple Lounge
- American Express Centurion Lounge
- Alaska Lounge
- American Airlines Flagship Lounge
Food and drink at LAX Airport
The dining options at LAX are so many and so varied that travelers can experience some of LA’s best restaurants without leaving the airport. From aça bowls from Earthbar Neapolitan-style pizza from 800 Degrees to refreshing cold-pressed juices from Beaming Cafe, to delicious artisanal burgers from Umami Burger to caviar and champagne from Petrossian Caviar & Champagne Bar, LAX offers something for everyone.
The airport is home to a variety of well-known local eateries. These include the famous Trejo’s Tacos, Ashland Hill, Lamill Coffee, Vanilla Bake Shop, and Urth Caffé & Bar, which employ the same products as their city counterparts. Additionally, even the LAX-it rideshare pickup lot has a fair selection of rotating food trucks, which are a hallmark of the city’s cultural identity.
However, LAX’s most popular food joint is not even in the airport! The In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda Blvd, just off the airport property, might just be LAX’s most popular food option. It is walkable from Terminal 1. However, you should exit the airport from the arrivals level because the sidewalk on the departures level is rather small.
In-N-Out Burger is a California classic. But what distinguishes this location are the picture-perfect views it offers of the flight path into the airport – sheer bliss for anyone who enjoys plane watching. If you have a few hours on hand between flights, enjoy some plane spotting while eating a burger.
For more info on things to do at LAX, read our blog on 7 things to do on a layover at LAX Airport.
A walk into LAX Airport’s past
Did you know that Los Angeles Airport wasn’t always called LAX? The story goes thus. Before the 1930s, US airports had a two-letter abbreviation, and ‘LA’ was the designation for Los Angeles Airport at the time. Because of the fast expansion of the aviation sector, the identifiers were enlarged to three letters in 1947. ‘LA’ got an extra letter to become ‘LAX.’ The letter ‘X,’ therefore, doesn’t really stand for anything specific!
If you go further back in the past, say to the 1920s, things get really interesting. It was then that this farmland for wheat, barley, and lima beans attracted the attention of aviators who started using it as a landing strip.
Soon, local developers lobbied for the region to become a major airport later in the 1920s. Mines Field, 640 acres, was allocated for use as an airport in 1927, and Los Angeles International Airport was created. From farmland to a landing strip to the behemoth that it is today, LAX has surely come a long way!
The LAX Building
The easily identifiable white Googie Theme Building was designed by Pereira & Luckman architect Paul Williams and erected by Robert E. McKee Construction Co. in 1961. It resembles a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs! A café with a panoramic view of the airport is perched just below the legs’ two arches.
With the new expansion plan going on at a rapid pace at LAX, most of the issues currently plaguing the airport will be resolved. This means more LAX Airport parking spots, fewer traffic snarls, and the Automated People Mover, LAX travelers will have it easier than ever.
What happened to Lot C at LAX?
Lot C closed in 2019. It will be transformed into a construction and staff parking area
Where is the new LAX Economy Parking Lot?
The LAX Economy Parking facility, which opened in October 2021, is located off 94th Street and Jetway Boulevard.
Does LAX parking take cash?
Yes, they do accept cash and most major credit cards.
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