Los Angeles Airport The Busiest USA Airport In December
A record number of passengers – 3.5 million – are passing through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) this holiday session, making it the busiest airport in the county.
Pubclub.com has been among those, having traveled in mid-December and will be doing so again on Dec. 30.
The busiest days are expected to be Wed.,, December 30 (232,000 passengers); Wed., December 23 (226,000); Monday, December 21 (224,000); and Sunday, December 27 (220,000). The slowest days are expected to be Christmas Day (179,000 passengers); Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day (both days 186,000 passengers); and New Year’s Eve (180,000).
The remaining days are expected to reach levels ranging between 210,000 and 218,000 passengers. For comparison, average daily passenger volume at LAX is 193,000.
Yet the airport – despite a lot of construction of late – is not sleek and modern. It also has a unique layout that confines passengers from freely roaming from one terminal to another.
Here’s some tips from a Los Angeles local on how to survive a trip to and through LAX.
• Walk, Don’t Ride, Between Terminals
The LAX “experience” is not exactly one you get at other airports. For one, there’s no central hub; instead it’s like the city it serves – it’s spread out over a large area. Three are eight terminals, each with specific airlines.
And they are connected not by a sleek underground train but an old-fashioned bus system. If you need to change terminals, plan on 15 minutes to get from one to the other.
You can usually walk from one to the other faster, and that’s highly recommended, unless you are gong from terminals 1-2 to 5, 6, 7 and 8, because that’s a hike. There is a way to cut through the center parking lot and under the landmark restaurant, but you have to pick you way through it, as there is no direct route or walkway.
If you’re at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and need to connect to a domestic gate, or vise-versa, just walk.
Note that both of these options are outside the security area, which makes for a nice transition into Tip #2.
• Security Checkpoints Can Take 45 Miinutes
Those terminals are old and small, so there’s not a lot of room to put passengers who are waiting for security checks. So the lines are long and when PubClub departed on Dec. 15, there was but a single checkpoint in Terminal 5 for the majority of passengers.
Getting through LAX security can routinely take more than 20 minutes; during this holiday season you had better prepare for 45 minutes.
• There’s No Free WiFi
Unlike nearly every other airport in the country (or world), LAX does not have free WiFi. However, the phone carrier signals are generally strong.
• There Are Not A Lot Of Airport Diversions
Also unlike at many other airports, once you get into the terminal, there’s not a lot of walking around and diversionary activities to occupy your time until your flight. There’s not any shopping besides the usual souvenir shops and the food spots are mostly small, non-lively places wedged between gates.
The terminals are pretty small so you can’t really walk around a lot and you can’t check out the other terminals because they are outside the security zone (okay, there IS a hallway between terminals 5-8 but these are LONG walks through a tunnel and you’re better off staying put).
The exception to this is the Tom Bradley Terminal, which has undergone a transformation the past couple of years and is kind of European, in that it’s spacious and has things to keep you occupied for a while, including a wine bar.
For domestic passengers, you can either sit at your gate or go to the closest bar. And frankly, that’s PubClub.com’s biggest LAX survival tip of them all – have some drinks and all will (hopefully) be good in the end.
• Uber and Lift Can Now Pick Up At LAX
That’s good news, tho be aware there is an extra charge for pickups at LAX.