Traveling through small airports can often be complicated enough. But traveling through LAX? For someone who has never done it before, this can be a hugely daunting prospect as you’re faced with overwhelming numbers of terminals, gates, parking areas and a complex that’s so confusingly laid out, it can seem impossible to navigate.
When you're traveling, you’ve got enough to worry about with keeping track of your baggage, corralling any kids who might be with you and trying to make connecting flights on time. Don’t let a complicated airport add one more concern to your list of stress factors.
With our LAX travel guide, we'll help you demystify this airport. We’ll break down things like travel times, amenities, terminals and parking options. By the time you’re finished here, you’ll be ready to take on LAX like a seasoned pro.
Los Angeles International Airport, more frequently referred to as LAX, is located just over 15 miles from the downtown area in Westchester, right alongside the many LA beach communities. Because of this airport’s location both on the West Coast and in a major city like Los Angeles, LAX is a hub for international travel, particularly to and from Asia and the rest of the Pacific. This is in addition to the already enormous number of domestic flights to other parts of the U.S.
As the 5th busiest airport in the world, LAX boasts a staggering total of 1,386 nonstop flights to 88 cities in 44 countries weekly, as well as 373 nonstop weekly flights to 100 domestic cities in the U.S. This adds up to a total of roughly 60 million passengers passing through the airport per year.
With so many passengers traveling through this airport every year, it should come as no surprise that LAX is also home to 90 different airlines. A few of the most common you can fly with into or out of LAX include:
If it’s an airline in the United States or that travels to the United States, the odds are very good that it passes through LAX.
Figuring out how to get to LAX is the first hurdle you’ll need to overcome on your trip. Remember that when planning for travel to the airport, it’s always better to budget more time than you need than less. If you arrive early, the worst thing that can happen is a long wait. If you arrive too late, you could risk missing your plane.
It depends on your destination. If you’re flying domestic, plan to arrive at least an hour and a half to two hours ahead of time. If it’s an international flight, aim for arriving two and a half to three hours early. This gives you plenty of time to make your way into the airport, find your gate, pass through security and make any last-minute preparations you may need.
It’s also worth noting that there are currently enormous construction projects underway at LAX that are scheduled to last until 2024. This complicates transportation to and from LAX; often, it takes 45 minutes to reach the airport from the freeway exit because of traffic delays due to the construction. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of travel time to get around this traffic. Even the fastest route to LAX will likely take far longer than it looks like it would take on a map.
It is difficult to quote an average time to reach LAX as there are so many variable factors at play. LAX airport traffic is notoriously bad and can depend on things like the time of day, the day of the week and any accidents that may have occurred that day. Therefore, any average travel times should always be taken with a grain of salt.
To help you plan your travel, however, here are some rough estimates that may give you some idea of expected travel times in LA:
If you’re from a smaller city, you may take it for granted that driving yourself is the best way to reach an airport. In a large city like LA, though, with so much traffic and construction factoring into the decision, there are many more options available to you.
As you plan your trip to LAX, choose from the following options.
SuperShuttle pricing is also highly affordable and will save you both stress and gas money. Note that the prices shown here reflect 2019 rates, and may vary depending on different factors:
The key to getting around in LAX is all about understanding the overall layout of the various terminals. Once you have a solid grasp of this, it isn’t too difficult to figure out how to get around.
LAX is home to eight basic terminals and one international terminal known as the Tom Bradley International Terminal, or TBIT. Rather than being connected to one central building, the terminals are largely separate entities. Moving between two different terminals will often require you to exit and reenter security. Because of this, you’ll want to plan for extra time if you want to leave your terminal to eat or shop.
Because each terminal is its own separate entity, each comes equipped with different sets of amenities. If your terminal doesn’t have the conveniences you’re looking for, you can always visit a different terminal — although you should keep in mind that you may need to pass through security to do so.
Some of the amenities to take note of include:
Terminal 1 is located at the northeastern corner of LAX and handles all the international departures flying with Southwest Airlines. All dining options are found past the security checkpoint and include:
If you want to do some shopping or kill some time while you wait for your plane, the following businesses are also available at Terminal 1:
Unlike Terminal 1, which exclusively handles Southwest Airlines, Terminal 2 handles flights from multiple airlines. If you find yourself passing through Terminal 2, your flight will likely be with one of the following airlines:
While in Terminal 2, there are plenty of dining options, as well as a Starbucks before security. Once you pass through security, enjoy options such as:
For shopping and passing the time, browse the following shops and businesses found past the security checkpoint in Terminal 2:
In addition to these restaurants and shops, Terminal 2 is also home to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. This lounge features a relaxed atmosphere away from the bustle of the airport terminal, delicious food, chic facilities and service that makes you feel like an exclusive guest at a private club.
Terminal 3 plays host to several different airlines. It’s home to about half of Delta Airlines flights, as well as departures with WestJet, although these travelers will check in at Terminal 2. Furthermore, passengers with Avianca, Copa and Interjet will all check in at Terminal 3, but will eventually depart from the international terminal.
If you’re looking to grab a bite in Terminal 3, you’ll have to wait until you’re past security. Once you do this, choose from restaurants and cafes such as:
When passing the time in Terminal 3, you can stop by one of these stores or businesses:
Terminal 4 is home to about half of the traffic from American Airlines. Additionally, travelers to Terminal 4 will want to know that a new connector has been added that leads directly to TBIT.
Dining options in Terminal 4 include a Starbucks before security, as well as the following restaurants once you’ve passed security:
After you’ve eaten, pass the time and shop a little at places like:
At Terminal 5, located across the parking areas from Terminals 3 and 2, you’ll find several different airlines coming and going. If you’re passing through Terminal 5, you most likely have a flight with:
Terminal 5 is also home to plenty of delicious eateries, such as:
Forget to pack a few last minute essentials? Hanging around on a layover with nothing to do? Check out stores and convenience stands like:
Terminal 6 is no stranger to hustle, bustle and huge amounts of traffic. Over half a dozen airlines use this terminal as their home base in LAX. Terminal 6 is where you’ll need to head if you’re flying with any of the following airlines:
There’s plenty to eat here in Terminal 6. In addition to a Starbucks before security, you can choose from restaurants such as the following after security:
Restaurants aren’t the only things you’ll find in Terminal 6. You can also pass the time by popping into places like:
Located directly across the parking area from Terminal 1, Terminal 7 is home only to about half of the flights from United/United Express. This is still a substantial number of flights, however, and results in a terminal that’s just as busy as the others.
If you’re looking to dine in or grab some food quickly in Terminal 7, try popping into places like:
Terminal 7 is also home to plenty of newsstands, stores and businesses that make excellent ways to pass the time as you wait for your plane. You might visit:
The last of the domestic terminals, Terminal 8 can be found in the southeast corner of the airport complex, just next to Terminal 7. Like Terminal 7, it’s solely dedicated to United/United Express Airlines and accounts for about half the traffic from United.
When you pass through Terminal 8, you can easily grab a quick bite at places like:
If there’s still time for a bit of shopping after you eat, feel free to spend some time browsing stores and newsstands such as:
The final terminal at LAX is the Tom Bradley International Terminal, or TBIT. As the name suggests, this terminal is responsible for most, although not all, of LAX’s international travel. While not an exhaustive list, a few of the international airlines that pass through this terminal include:
Because so many different countries and airlines rely on this terminal, it makes sense that this terminal would be the largest of them all. All gates and sections of this terminal lead back to the Great Hall, a new central area where restaurants, shops and lounges are located and where passengers can relax between flights, or while waiting for their plane to arrive. The complete list of restaurants is extensive, and there are a variety of shops and newsstands to choose from as well.
For the travelers looking to sit, rest and relax between connecting flights, there are also several new lounges that have recently opened and can offer a respite from the chaos of the general airport scene.
Navigating LAX isn’t impossible. If you’ve done it once, the second time becomes easier, and the third time is easier still. Nonetheless, there are still numerous headaches surrounding a trip to this bustling airport. From driving through traffic and construction to get there, to reaching the terminals from your parking places and navigating the terminals once you arrive, it’s a lot to manage.
Let SuperShuttle ease the load on your mind as you embark on your next trip. Book a shared ride or non-stop with us, and we’ll make sure you get directly from an address of your choosing right to the door of your terminal — with no extra hassle.
Book your ride today to learn just how easy travel can be.