Many people believe Los Angeles International Airport is a complete disaster, and they have good reason to think that. LAX is the 4th busiest airport in the world. Over 80 million people go through LAX/year and it can be extremely frustrating to get to due to LA traffic. Constantly LAX is rating among the worst airports in the world. But it is slowly becoming one of my favorite airports.
Why I Like LAX
I lived in Los Angeles in 2009 and 2010. I absolutely hated it. While it is extremely beautiful, it is really hard to get from place to place, it is extremely expensive, and led to me becoming a shut-in. I did not want the stress of going anywhere. That dislike of LA extended to LAX. Everytime I flew out of LAX parking was an issue, security took forever , and everyone seemed to be a jerk to each other. It was a hassle. Of course at the time I was a young inexperienced traveller. This dislike of LAX stuck with me for several years and I avoided it like the plague when planning travel.
However in 2018, everything changed. I travelled through LAX on 4 different occasions in 2018 learning something new each time.
LAX is extremely accessible
LAX is one of the most accessible airports in the world. So long as you have a valid boarding pass for travel that day, you can access any part of the airport. This is not the case with a lot of the mega airports, like Heathrow or Newark. These airports will not let you past security without valid travel from that particular terminals and make transferring between them difficult if not impossible. While not all terminals are connected after security at LAX, they will not stop you from entering any other terminal. This opens up a whole new world of airport lounges, restaurants, and sitting areas you have access too.
It is not difficult to transfer terminals
A major complaint about LAX is that is way too small for number of flights. As one of the busiest airports in the world, this is probably true. Its square footage is quite small in comparison to similarly trafficked airports. However, when it comes to exploring the airport as a whole this is great. The layout of LAX has its terminals in a compact loop. The Tom Bradley International Terminal is physically connected airside with terminals 4,5,6,7,8. While Tom Bradley international terminal and terminals 2 and 3 are connected via Delta shuttle bus. However, with the small square footage none of these terminals are really that far away. For example it is less than a fifteen minute walk to leave the airport at terminal 7 and walk to terminal 2 if you cut across short term parking garages.
Security is a breeze with TSA PreCheck
TSA precheck is an amazing deal for frequent and less frequent travelers alike. TSA precheck cost $85 but lasts for five years (about $17 a year). So long as you are flying on one of over 50 airlines that participates in pre-check, you get to utilize a shorter security line and get to keep your shoes on and all your items in your bags. This became more important as I started to wander between terminals. As it is quicker to leave the airport to transfer between certain terminals, I have gone through the LAX precheck line 15+ times in the past year. At no time did it take more than 10 minutes to complete security screening.
What does this all mean?
Putting this all together means it is really easy to explore LAX. As I am a Priority Pass holder I have free access to several airport lounges and restaurants within LAX. The problem with priority pass always seems to be that the places I have access to never seem to be the terminal I am leaving from. This leaves me stuck waiting at the gate on an uncomfortable bench until my flight boards. However, with the whole airport open to me and easily accessible, my world got a whole lot wider.
This leads to January 8, 2019, I spent the entire day at LAX.
Spending the Entire Day at LAX
For my birthday I treated myself to the inaugural flight on United’s Boeing 787-10 from Newark to Los Angeles. This meant I had to figure a way to get back to my home, Seattle, from Los Angeles. Not wanting to take any time off from work I decided to take a late flight home and spend the day working out of the airport. With my newfound tips and tricks in hand I was able to have an extremely fun day, while being able to work the entire time.
Stop 1: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (Terminal 2)
I had the rental car bus drop me off at terminal 2. This is terminal is mostly for Delta Airlines, but as a partner Virgin Atlantic also flies out of it. Given this, Virgin built one of its Clubhouse lounges in terminal 2. This lounge is one of my favorite lounges Priority Pass members have access to (PP members can only access this lounge in the morning).
While its food and drinks are limited in the morning, it is an extremely bright and modern lounge. Its floor to ceiling windows which overlook terminals one and two provide for great light and amazing plane watching.
I sat down at one of the tables grabbed a pastry and a soda and started my work for the day. I worked for 2 2-1/2 hours in this lounge until they announced it was closing at 10:30am. At that point I left and moved myself into an extremely nice sitting area outside of the lounge, but still in reach of their wifi to finish a few things up before lunch.
Stop 2: Rock and Brews (Terminal 1)
At 11:15 I finished my current project and walked from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. As terminal 1 is Southwest’s terminal and not connected airside. So I left the airport and walked over. Counting time to get through security, it took me 20 minutes from seat to seat.
With priority pass I get a $28 credit (excluding gratuity) to the restaurant. I ordered myself a Burger and a Raspberry lemonade and got back to work.
The food was pretty good and the WiFi was serviceable. So after a nice lunch, I paid my bill (which was only the $5 tip I left), and headed to the Tom Bradley International Terminal
Stop 3: Korean Airlines Lounge (Tom Bradley International Terminal)
With Priority Pass I have access to the LAX KAL Lounge from Noon-6pm. So at about 12:10 I left terminal 1 and took the shuttle bus from Terminal 1 to TBIT. I could have walked between terminals but the bus was there when I exited so I hopped on. I got to the lounge at about 12:30 (another 20 minutes for transfer and security) and sat down and plugged back in. As I had a lot to get done, I chose an out of the way seat. Korean Air decorated its lounge in muted colors and has relaxing music on at a really low volume. It is an amazing space to work because it was quiet and easy to focus.
At about 3 work slowed down a bit, so I decided to take a quick break. One of my favorite things about the KAL lounge are the showers. KAL has extremely nice private shower rooms that you can check out for a 15 minute shower. As I was feeling a bit tired at that point I thought a nice hot shower would wake me up.
After my shower I worked until about 5 pm when I figured I should grab an early dinner before heading to my flight.
Stop 4: PF Chang’s (Tom Bradley International Terminal)
Just down the hallway from the KAL lounge at LAX is PF Chang’s. This is another Priority Pass restaurant; at PF Chang’s holders get a $30 credit (excluding gratuities).
They quickly brought me to my seat and I ordered honey shrimp and wonton soup. The food came out a bit faster than I was expecting.
By the time paid my bill (I only had to pay a $6 tip), It was 5:30 and I needed to be at my gate at 6:10. So I headed over to terminal 6.
Stop 5 Alaska Airlines Lounge (Terminal 6)
I did not plan this this stop. However, by the time I was done eating I realized I would have time for a quick stop at the Alaska Lounge. While this stop was unnecessary, I thought it was cool to visit all 5 of the Priority Pass offerings at LAX in one day. I took bridge from TBIT to Terminal 4 and the underground tunnels to terminal 6. It was about a 15 minute walk between terminals.
I didn’t have much time in the lounge so I grabbed a soda from their freestyle machine and sat down for 20 minutes before heading to my gate.
LAX is quickly becoming one of my favorite airports to connect through in the country. It is an extremely accessible airport with security that is a breeze (with precheck). This combined with all of the Priority Pass offerings allowed me to have a fun, relaxing, productive day despite spending over 12 hours at the airport.