LAX has long been one of the busiest airports in the USA, ushering upwards of 70 million people from around the world through its nine terminals. There's no question it's one of the country's most important transport hubs, but when it comes to passenger experience ... well, let's just say many feel it leaves much to be desired.
Thankfully the cries for improvement have not fallen on deaf ears, and in 2013, the airport commenced a multi-million dollar renovation that will see many of the terminals getting a much needed refresh. 2013 introduced the new Tom Bradley International Terminal. 2015 offered an upgrade for Terminal 5. And this year has seen the opening of the redesigned Terminal 2, Terminal 4 Connector and the completion of the Curbside Appeal Project. A revamped Terminal 6 is set to open later this year.
Strides have been made, but as the old saying goes, "all good things come to those who wait." As we count down to 2023 when the People Mover project (the last in a long list of improvements) takes effect, here's the survivor's guide to LAX.
- Umami Burger: Tom Bradley International Terminal
Keep your eyes peeled for this counter if you're flying out of the Tom Bradley Terminal. Born and raised in LA, this famous chain is all about hitting your tastebuds with major flavour. Stick with the classic Umami Burger with parmesan crisp, shitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelised onions and Umami ketchup.
- Loteria! Grill: Terminal 5 and 7
Another hot LA eatery that has made its way to LAX, this casual Mexican dining spot serves up many classic favourites with an emphasis on fresh. From veggie tacos and burritos to mole poblano enchiladas, it's a satisfying and quick eating option prior to your flight.
Drinks and girl talk #colesoriginatorsofthefrenchdip #girltalk #manhattan #oldfashioned #dtla #whiskey A photo posted by Candace Riesgo (@_papiermache_cat_) on
- Cole's: Terminal 4
If you're hoping to unwind before take-off, LAX offers a surprisingly diverse range of hip spots to get a drink. This includes Cole's, an offshoot of the original Downtown LA bar. In fact, the bartenders at the LAX station were trained in the Downtown location. It's all about classic cocktails with a Cole's twist. This includes the Whiskey Sour, Old Fashioned and Cole's Bloody Mary.
- Petrossian Caviar and Champagne Bar: Tom Bradley International Terminal
For those with a slightly more refined palette, you may just want to pull up a chair to snack on caviar-topped blinis as you sip a glass of fine champagne. There are 15 to 20 varieties of bubbles to choose from, ranging from sparkling local varieties up to Cristal Rose. Just remember everything in moderation!
If you're after a quick 40 winks between flights, unfortunately LAX doesn't offer any designated spots for a nap. Your best bet is to look into lounge passes (more on that later).
If you have an extended layover, it may be worth looking into one of the nearby airport hotels, some of which offer day rooms for temporary visitors. The Hyatt Regency (formerly Concourse Hotel) at LAX is a mere two minutes from the terminals, with free airport shuttles available. It is the closest hotel to the airport and offers day rooms from 6am to 6pm.
Or try the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles. It is also two minute drive from the terminals, with a 24-hour shuttle service that runs every 10 to 15 minutes. Day use rooms rent from 9am to 6pm but are subject to availability. If you're keeping a close eye on the bottom line, the Travelodge Hotel at LAX is six minutes from the airport and offers day use rooms from 9am to 8pm. Shuttle service is also available from 4:30am to 1am.
Pass The Time
Passing the time within the LAX airport is somewhat limited and dependant on the terminal you happen to be travelling out of. If you have an extended (think four hours or more) break between flights, it is worth getting to some of the other terminals to explore your options. For example, located in the Tom Bradley International Airport and Terminal 5, the Xpressa spa is a great option for a little pre-flight refresh. From massages to nail and skin care, there is a full menu of treatments to choose from. Keep in mind these come at an additional cost, starting at around US$40 for a 15 minute massage*.
With all of the recent renovations, LAX has integrated a few art exhibits. Some are temporary exhibitions while others are permanent fixtures of the airport. Either way, they're a great way to kill an hour or two. There are 11 exhibition sites located in Terminals 1 (Ventanas at Baggage Claim), 2 (Flow and Glimpse at Departures Atrium), 3 , 6, 7 and Tom Bradley International (Transfiguration at the Customs Hallway, Arrivals).
If your layover is six hours or more, one of the best ways to while away the time is to escape the airport all together to see the city. Luckily, the LA hop-on hop-off bus tour runs from the nearby Hyatt Regency Hotel (Concourse stop) that hits places like the Fisherman's Village at Marina del Ray. Alternatively, you can arrange for a driver to pick you up for a little sightseeing in the city. If you do decide to get out of the airport, just be mindful of your time and the traffic conditions. The last thing you need is a stressful rush back to the airport when traffic is bumper to bumper.
Breakfast in the Boardroom before my flight #breakfast #pancakes #alaskaairlinesboardroom #travelgram A photo posted by Jilli Victorio (@jillivictorio) on
The majority of LAX's terminals offer lounges that frequent flyer members can take advantage of when flying. If you're not a frequent flyer, it's well worth considering a program as lounge access is definitely one of the better perks.
If you're not a member, luckily you won't be left out of the lounge experience. There are pay-per-visit options in some of the terminals. This includes the Alaska Airlines Board Room in Terminal 6. While a bit smaller than other airline lounges in LAX, there are comfortable chairs, WiFi access and food and beverage options. Single entry comes at approximately US$45*.
The Delta Airlines SkyClub in Terminal 5 is another option that allows non-members to purchase a single entry pass for around US$59*. It's worth the splurge if you have a couple hours to burn as it offers private shower suites and a designated quiet room. Food is also available as well as a tended bar serving everything from house wine to cocktails at no extra cost.
*prices at time of writing