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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX IATA) is located on the West Side of Los Angeles County and is a major point of entry to the USA for flights from Asia and Oceania.

Understand

The iconic LAX Theme Building located in the center of the airport

LAX is a massive airport and one of the busiest in the world, with nine terminals built in different eras in a variety of architectural styles, of which the common element is that they all seem cramped on the inside (that is, relative to the size and importance of the airport). Some terminals have been renovated recently and look relatively modern, while others are definitely showing their age. Most were built before the Transportation Security Administration implemented modern security checkpoints, which means the checkpoints were shoehorned into the existing buildings with very awkward results.

Flights

LAX consistently ranks as one of the busiest airports in the world (ranking 6th in 2013), and services dozens of airlines offering flights to numerous cities across the country and around the world.

  • Terminal 1 - There are fifteen gates at terminal 1, which as of 2014 is undergoing a $500 million renovation. This terminal services Southwest Airlines.
  • Terminal 2 - There are eleven gates at terminal 2, which primarily service foreign airlines that do not use the Tom Bradley International. Airlines utilizing this terminal include Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air China, Avianca, Hawaiian Airlines, Interjet, Qatar Airways, Sun Country Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Volaris, and WestJet.
  • Terminal 3 - There are twelve gates at this terminal servicing Allegiant Air, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, and Virgin America (all departures, arrivals from Mexico disembark at TBIT), as well as check-in facilities for Virgin Australia (whose departures and arrivals are at TBIT).
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT or Terminal B) - This terminal, located between terminals 3 and 4, has eighteen gates and services most international flights on all other foreign flag carriers. Virgin America and Alaska Airlines arrivals from Mexico; and Copa Airlines arrivals from Panama disembark passengers at TBIT where passengers proceed to immigration and customs inspection. It recently completed a $1.5 billion expansion that added gates, 150,000 ft2 of dining, retail, and lounge space, and significantly larger security, ticketing, and baggage areas.
  • Terminal 4 - Terminal 4 has fourteen gates servicing American Airlines and American Eagle. Terminal 4 is linked to Terminal 6 (Alaska Airlines, some American Airlines flights), the remote American Eagle terminal and TBIT (One World partner airlines) by an air side shuttle bus that picks up and drops off passengers at Gate 44.
  • Terminal 5 - Terminal 5 has fifteen gates servicing Delta Airlines.
  • Terminal 6 - Terminal 6 has fourteen gates servicing Alaska Airlines (all departures, arrivals from Mexico disembark at TBIT), Copa Airlines (departures), Great Lakes Airlines, and some American Airlines flights.
  • Terminal 7 - Terminal 7 has eleven gates servicing United Airlines and United Express.
  • Terminal 8 - Terminal 8 has nine gates primarily servicing smaller jets, and is used by United Airlines and United Express and functions as an extension of Terminal 7.

Note that many international flights do not leave from or arrive at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. To avoid missing flights, always determine in advance which terminal(s) your international flights will be flying in or out of, especially if you are connecting through LAX.

Ground transportation

Be sure to arrive at the airport at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours before your flight (2-3 hours if traveling internationally) as check in procedures and lines for security can be long and time-consuming.

Map of LAX showing the nine terminals

The upper level of the airport structure is used for drop-offs (departures) while the lower level is used for pick-ups (arrivals). The lower level roadway is divided into an inner and outer roadway, with private vehicles using the outer (right-hand side) roadway and commercial vehicles (including shuttles), circling the inner (left-hand side) roadway and stopping at islands that divide the two roadways.

When departing the airport, the area outside of each terminal is divided into zones indicating the transportation options available. The different pickup zones are clearly marked by brightly colored signs corresponding to the type of transportation you are looking for:

  • Blue - LAX shuttle airline connections
  • Red - Hotel and parking lot shuttles
  • Orange - Shared ride vans
  • Purple - Rental car shuttles
  • Green - Long distance vans and FlyAway buses
  • Yellow - Taxis

By public transportation

Public transportation connections for the airport are not the greatest to put it mildly. LAX is located 16 miles from downtown Los Angeles and inconveniently you need to take a shuttle bus to connect with the city's metro rail system. There is a free shuttle bus (the "G" or "Green Line" shuttle) from the airport terminals to the Aviation/LAX station and to get to the Metro or get on the "Lot C" or "C" shuttle to the south entrance of the expansive Parking Lot C, next to the "LAX City Bus Center" to get to the nearby areas in Torrance, Santa Monica, UCLA in Westwood, Norwalk, Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach. Some of the buses serve both the "LAX/Aviation Station" and the "LAX Bus Center" while others serve one or the other. The airport shuttle buses going out to either station pick up from under the BLUE "LAX Shuttle Airline Connections" sign at the outer curb. See the below as to what is available:

  • LAX City Bus Center at the south side of Parking Lot C on W 96th St & Skyway/Vicksburg Ave:
  • Lot C Bus (picks up from under the BLUE 'LAX Shuttle Airline Connections' signs at the outer curb, in front of each terminal, and goes out to their own small depot located at the entrance to Parking Lot C and next to the LAX City Bus Center. The 'Lot C' buses continue from the depot into the expansive Parking Lot C in one direction and back to the airport terminals in the other).
  • Big Blue Bus #3/3R (goes northwest to Santa Monica via Lincoln Blvd and south to the 'LAX Aviation Station')
  • Culver City Bus #6/6R (goes north to Culver City and the UCLA campus in Westwood via Sepulveda Blvd and south to the 'LAX Aviation Station').
  • Torrance City Bus #8 (goes south to Torrance)
  • Beach Cities Transit #109 (to Redondo Beach via Aviation/LAX Station, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach)
  • Metro #40 (goes north to downtown Los Angeles via Hawthorne, Inglewood and Lennox neighborhoods along Hawthorne/La Brea and MLK Blvd and south to Redondo Beach. Airport service is only available on the late night/early morning runs between 1AM and 4:23AM - check linked schedule)
  • Metro #102 (goes east to Palm & Seville in South Gate via La Tijera Blvd & Exposition Blvd)
  • Metro #111/311 (goes east to the Norwalk Station along E Florence & Studebaker Rd)
  • Metro #117 (goes east to the Lakewood Blvd Metro Station in Downey via Century Blvd & Imperial Hwy)
  • Metro #232 (goes south to Long Beach via Sepulveda Blvd & Pacific Coast Hwy
  • Aviation/LAX Station (nearest Metro Station) further south at Aviation Blvd and Century Freeway (I-105):
  • Green Line Bus or 'G Bus' (picks up from under the BLUE 'LAX Shuttle Airline Connections' signs at the outer curb, in front of each terminal to the 'LAX/Aviation Station')
  • Metro Green Line Train(goes east to Norwalk and south to Redondo Beach. You can ride east on the Green Line to Willowbrook station, where you can transfer to the Metro Blue Line to Downtown Los Angeles or to Long Beach in the other direction.)
  • Big Blue Bus #3/3R (goes northwest to Santa Monica via the 'LAX City Bus Center')
  • Gardena City Bus #5 (goes east to the 'Imperial' Metro station in Willowbrook along El Segundo Blvd through the northern part of Gardena)
  • Culver City Bus 6/6R (goes north to the LAX City Bus Center and the UCLA campus in Westwood via Sepulveda Blvd).
  • Beach Cities Bus #109 (to Redondo Beach via El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach in one direction and LAX City Bus Center in the other)
  • Metro #120 (goes east Whittwood Mall in Whittier via Imperial Hwy)
  • Metro #625 (goes west to the LAX administration offices, aircraft maintenance hangars and airline cargo terminals at the opposite side of the airport grounds via Imperial Hwy and World Way W)
FlyAway bus to Union Station

A more direct service is the LAXFlyAway bus, which takes you from under the GREEN "Flyaway, Buses & Long Distance Vans" sign at the outer curb in front of each of the LAX terminals. Different buses pick up with the following destinations:

  • Downtown Union Station (Patsaouras Transit Plaza located at the east portals to the station on the opposite side of the tracks from the historic Union Station), every 30 minutes until midnight, and every hour overnight.
  • Hollywood (northeast corner of Selma and Argyle Avenues, one block southeast of Hollywood and Vine)
  • Santa Monica (on the west side of 2nd Street, north of Colorado Avenue).
  • Long Beach (Long Beach Transit Gallery, at the northwest corner of 1st Street and Long Beach Boulevard)
  • Van Nuys (7610 Woodley Ave at the NE corner of Woodley Ave and Saticoy, next to the Van Nuys Airport)
  • Westwood (in front of Parking Structure #32 along Kinross Ave between Veterans Ave and Weyburn Place at the UCLA South Campus)

The fare is $8-$10 depending on destination and can only be paid by credit card or ATM card (all major cards accepted). No cash is accepted

Click here for the trip planner program which tells you which bus(es) to take to get to your final destination. Nearby hotels and hostels do send their own shuttles to the terminals to pick up and drop off guests so no need to use public transportation to get there. Their shuttles pick up from under the RED 'Hotel & Parking Shuttle' signs at the outer curb, in front of each terminal.

By car

Being that you are in Southern California, renting a car may be your best option for getting about. If you rent a car, there are around 10 different companies with very frequent shuttle buses picking up on the lower level around all terminals and going to large offsite lots. If you want to compare prices, you will need to do so using the telephones in the arrivals area or on the internet in advance of arriving. There are no details from the shuttle drivers or negotiable prices. Signing up to one the car rental club schemes can get the shuttle bus to drop you at your car, thus saving substantial time.

Most traffic enters the airport from (West) Century Boulevard exit of the 405, due to heavy traffic and road works the last mile of Century can take 2 minutes to drive. The airport operates a long-term parking lot that located outside of the main airport and accessible by shuttle bus. Private companies including hotels offer many additional options and include everything from open-air lots to garage parking with car washes. For those waiting to pick up passengers there is a cell-phone waiting lot adjacent to Lot C where you can wait in your car for up to two hours.

  • Central Terminal Area Parking Structures. This option is useful for those making pick-ups or drop-offs. Approximately 8000 parking spaces are available in multiple structures in the center of the airport. $3 for the first hour, $2 for each 30 minutes thereafter, $30 maximum for each 24 hours.
  • Economy Parking - Lot C (96th Street and Sepulveda Boulevard). 7300 open-air parking spaces located just outside of the main airport. The 'Lot C' shuttle buses run regularly to bring passengers to and from this enormous lot. $4 per hour, maximum $12 per day.

By rental car

Most rental car companies have their own, off airport, drop off and pick-up offices along Aviation Boulevard north of Century Boulevard and along Century Blvd. Many are next to each other and some share the same address. Shuttle buses are available from under the "Purple - Rental car shuttles" signs, along the outer curb, in front of the airport terminals (about 10 minutes ride). Not all car rental companies are allowed to send their shuttles to the airport terminal to pick up and drop off their customers either. In that case, take the "Lot C" Shuttle bus from under the BLUE 'LAX Shuttle Airline Connections' signs to Parking Lot 'C' to meet the car rental company's representative. Should you need to fill the tank before returning the car, there are a couple of fuel stations on Aviation Blvd, although stations a little further away may be cheaper.

The following are some of the nearby (inter)national chain brands located nearby LAX. Many do send a shuttle to pick up and drop off customers. Although only a mile from the terminals allow 20 minutes, due to traffic, for the courtesy buses between the rental stations and the airport:

There are numerous other smaller car rental companies to list that surround LAX. They can be located using Google and Google maps. Some are local to only the Los Angeles and Southern California market while others have more locations in select markets. Some of them specializes in renting only certain type of vehicles such as luxury cars, sports cars, jeeps or vans while others compete with the national chains by offering different types of vehicles. Most of them cannot send a shuttle to the airport terminals but rather pick up customers at or around the 'Lot C' shuttle bus depot, at the main entrance into Parking Lot C. Ask.

By taxi

Taxis to Downtown cost $45.00 and take 30 min in good traffic but can be far slower (and more expensive) in rush hour.

Get around

Terminals 4-8 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal are linked by walkways on the secure side, so that passengers in any one of the six can go to another without having to pass through security again (though if you're going more than one terminal away it's a hike from one end to the other). Terminal 4 (Gate 44) is connected to the remote American Eagle Terminal (east of Terminal 8), Terminal 6 (Gate 65) and TBIT (other Oneworld partners) by an airside shuttle bus operated by American Airlines. The other terminals are not connected behind security, so to get between them taking a shuttle bus or walking landside is necessary.

There is a free shuttle bus running between the terminals. The "Airline Connections" or "A" shuttle bus loops around all the terminals on the lower level roadway; it stops at the zone marked "LAX Shuttle and Shuttle Connections." It is possible to walk from one terminal to another along the sidewalk of either the upper or lower level. A streetside sidewalk connects all the terminals. It is no more than a 10-minute walk between any two adjacent terminals (with the obvious exception of 1 and 8). If you are transferring between directly adjacent terminals, walking is nearly always quicker than the shuttle.

Wait

Inside Tom Bradley International Terminal

Lounges

Tom Bradley International Terminal

  • Star Alliance Lounge (on Level 6; the entrance is via elevator past the security checkpoint on the north side). 9:15AM-12:30AM, varies according to winter/summer airline schedules. This lounge is for Gold/Senator members only, or those with first/business class tickets. The lounge has 40 seats and 2 VIP rooms for first class passengers and 375 seats for business class passengers. There is a business center, wireless internet access, telephone access, showers, hot and cold beverages, hot and cold snacks, newspapers and magazines, and private rooms available by reservation.
  • Oneworld Alliance Lounge (on Level 5; the entrance is via elevator past the security checkpoint on the north side). F-M, W: 6:30AM-1:30AM, Tu, Th: 9AM-1:30AM. Access to First Class Lounges is restricted to Emerald members and those travelling in First Class.
  • Los Angeles International Lounge (Japan Airlines) (on Level 4; the entrance is via elevator past the security checkpoint on the north side). Daily 6AM to last departure.

Other terminals

  • Admirals Club (American Airlines) (Terminal 4, on the Concourse level across from Gate 40). Daily 5AM-12:30AM.
  • Flagship Lounge (American Airlines) (Terminal 4, across from Gate 40, entrance through Admirals Club lounge). Daily 5:15AM-midnight.
  • Board Room (Alaska Airlines) (Terminal 6, elevator near gate 64). Daily 5AM-10PM.
  • United Club (two in Terminal 7: across from gate 71A and between gates 73 and 75). Daily 5AM-11PM. These lounges are accessible to United Club Members, first and business class passengers, and Star Alliance Gold members.

Eat and Drink

Restaurant options at LAX are extremely hit-or-miss, though an effort to improve dining choices in 2010 did result in more locally based and high-end dining being available. A lot depends on which terminal you're in; some terminals have more choices than others, and restaurants before security are very limited. You can always visit another terminal, if you're landside, but you're in for a bit of a hike, which can be annoying if you're dragging luggage with you. Note that the Encounter Restaurant, which previously occupied the Theme Building in the center of the airport, closed in January 2014.

Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT)

Air side now has several recently opened branches of local restaurants such as Ink Sack, Petrossian, and Umami Burger. 800 Degrees in the Time Tower food court area make reasonably good and fresh pizza. The land side restaurants no longer exist.

Terminal 1

Terminal 2

Terminal 3

Terminal 4

  • Kogi Truck. One of Roy Choi's famous kogi Korean taco trucks, this taco and burrito eatery is located in an actual food truck and is one of the airport's more reasonably-priced options. Short rib, pork, chicken and tofu tacos are the specialty, but the other options are unique and tasty. Tacos $2.70, burritos $7.

Terminal 5

  • Ford's Filling Station. 5:30AM-11PM. Serving upscale American fare, this restaurant is owned by the son of actor Harrison Ford and offers options ranging from pub burgers to buttermilk fried chicken to Cubano flatbreads. Prices are on the high side, but the food is well-prepared and worth a splurge. $10-$20.

Terminal 6

  • Redondo Beach Brewing Company (next to security, in Terminal 6). 4:30AM-12:30AM. Beer on tap, bar.
  • Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom (next to security in Terminal 6). Sausage sandwiches and fries.
  • Ruby's Dinette, in between gates 64-65. Small, sit-down casual restaurant
  • Monet's California Deli, in between gates 64-65. Sandwiches, breakfast burritos.
  • Home Turf Sports Bar, in between gates 64-65. Fairly large sports bar, near the Alaska Airlines Board Room
  • Coffee Bean, in between gates 64-65.

Terminal 7

  • Klatch Coffee (next to gates 70A-B). Coffee, snacks, sandwiches.
  • Food Court: ¡Loteria! Mexican Grill & Bar, Yogurtland, The Coffee Bean, Counter Burgers, in between gates 74-77. Mexican food, frozen yogurt, coffee and pastries, and custom built burgers and breakfast.
  • B Grill by BOA Steakhouse, in between gates 71B & 73. Bright, modern sitdown steakhouse and bar. Entrees including pasta, steaks, burgers, breakfast. Expensive.
  • Wolfgang Puck Express, Near Gate 75B. 5AM-10PM. Bar, takeout counter, and sit-down restaurant. The usual menu of pizza, salads and roast chicken. Restaurant is large and features low lighting, wood paneling and a view of the runways.
  • Rolling Stone Bar and Grill, Gate 72. Open sports bar.

Terminal 8

  • Food Court: Marmalade Cafe, The Coffee Bean, Carls Jr. & The Green Burrito, in between gates 81-82. Casual, small food court area. The Marmalade Cafe has deli salads and pasta; the Coffee Bean has coffee and pastries; Carl's Jr. has fast-food burgers and burritos.
  • Corona Beach House. Midrange. Across from gate 86. Bar serving Corona and a few other beers on tap, as well as a full bar and food including nachos and sandwiches, as well as breakfast. Has comfortable lounge type seating as well as table.
  • Engine Co. No 28. 5PM-10PM, with last call at 9:45. Fire-company themed restaurant, bar, and takeout counter with a menu of burgers and entrees.

Buy

Terminal 7

  • CNN News / Hudson News, Gates 71A and 73. Snacks, magazines, gifts.
  • Universal Studios shop, Gate 71A. Movie and theme-park themed souvenirs.
  • Bartels' LAX Harley-Davidson, in between gates 71B & 73. Harley-Davidson store featuring apparel and gear.
  • Kitson, in between gates 71B & 73, +1 310-642-0971. 6AM-11PM. Novelties, apparel and LA-theme gifts.
  • Hugo Boss Store, in between gates 71B & 73.

Terminal 8

  • E! News, Next to gates 81-82. Snacks, magazines, gifts.

Connect

As in many other large airports, a WiFi network is available in the terminals, so you can get online with your laptop, tablet or smartphone. The network name is LAX Free WiFi. You can choose between a slower version of it (free, after an advertisement) and a faster premium version ($4.95/1 hour, $7.95/day).

Cope

Sleep

The stretch of West Century Boulevard leading into the airport from I-405 is lined with hotels. Additionally, you can find many airport hotels south of the airport in El Segundo or east of I-405 in Inglewood.

Nearby

  • Westchester A neighborhood of Los Angeles to the north of LAX, mostly residential but home to the closest hotels to LAX.
  • Manhattan Beach explore the beach, pier and local restaurants, a short drive from LAX (if it's not rush hour).
  • El Segundo Those with a long layover may consider taking a taxi to visit the neighboring city of El Segundo, which offers shopping, movies, and a nine-hole golf course within a ten-minute drive from the airport (traffic dependent, of course - this is LA).
  • Inglewood If you're a member, there's a Costco store at 3560 W Century Blvd. Includes a gas station and snack bar. Very convenient at just 4 miles due east of the airport. Finding the entrance is a little tricky, as there's no Costco sign visible from Century Blvd. Take the first right past Yukon Ave. at Century Plaza by the Chase Bank, and go straight to the back.
This huge airport travel guide to Los Angeles International Airport is a usable article. It has information on flights and ground transportation as well as some complete entries for food and beverage options at the airport. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.