Review: Hainan Airlines LAX Limo, Check-In, And Lounge

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Introduction: 5-Star China On The Cheap
Review: Hainan Airlines LAX Limo, Check-In, And Lounge
Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Los Angeles To Changsha
Review: Sheraton Changsha Hotel
Review: Changsha Airport Lounges
Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Changsha To Los Angeles


My LAX ground experience with Hainan Airlines started before I even got to the airport. Hainan offers complimentary chauffeur service to business class passengers booked on revenue fares.

Hainan-Chauffeur

While Emirates and Etihad offer similar services and let you request them online, Haian’s process is a bit more complicated. To arrange the chauffeur you either have to call or email them. I chose to email Hainan’s limo service, which can be done at limo@hnair.com. I was impressed by their responsiveness, as I heard back within hours:

Dear,

Thank you for your email. You are available for the limo servicer. Please finish the attachment and send back to us. If you don’t know how to fill it! You can call us 95339-2!

Best regards!

Attached were two forms I had to fill out to request the service. There were some aspects of the form which confused me a bit, though I was pleased when I heard back from them less than 24 hours later confirming my limo service for all four occasions (on arrival and departure in both Los Angeles and Changsha).

Hainan-Limo-Form-1

I had arranged for the limo to pick me up in West Hollywood at 9:30AM, so I’d have plenty of time before my 12:35PM departure.

The driver was there about 15 minutes early, and picked me up in a nice Cadillac XTS. The limo service is provided through Dav El, and the driver was extremely professional. I thought it was pretty funny that when he picked me up he said “you’re flying… I don’t know how to pronounce the airline’s name… is it who-nani?”

I tipped the driver $20 (as I usually do for airline provided chauffeur services), and was dropped off at LAX around 10:15AM.

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Hainan Airlines limo service LAX

Hainan Airlines departs from Terminal 2 at LAX, rather than Tom Bradley International Terminal, where most foreign carriers depart from. That’s both good and bad news depending on how you look at it. The good news is that the terminal is smaller, so it’s typically easier to get through security. The bad news is that the lounge options are much more limited.

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LAX Terminal 2 exterior

Upon entering the terminal I turned right past the Hawaiian and Sun Country check-in counters, where I found the Hainan Airlines check-in counters squished in the very end of the terminal.

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Terminal 2 check-in area LAX

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Terminal 2 check-in area LAX

The check-in space is rather small, and it’s pretty clear the terminal is running out of space for airline check-in. It might be time for them to switch to shared check-in spaces, given that not all airlines use their counters constantly.

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Hainan Airlines LAX check-in counter

There was a business class lane on the left side of the check-in area, where there was no queue.

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Hainan Airlines LAX business class check-in counter

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Hainan Airlines LAX business class check-in counter

The agent had me quickly checked in, and much to my surprise she actually requested to weigh my carry-on. Fortunately my carry-on wasn’t that heavy, so I didn’t have to check it (I didn’t voluntarily declare my other bag, though, or else I may have had to check my carry-on). I also had her add my Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan number to the reservation, so I’d be able to earn miles for the trip.

I knew the flight wasn’t very full, so tried to ask if there was any way she could assign me a window seat which has good odds of having the aisle seat next to it stay open. When I asked how full the flight was, she said “flight very not full.” Alrighty then!

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Hainan Airlines LAX business class check-in counter

In no time she had my boarding pass printed, and also wrote me a lounge invitation. Hainan has the cutest lounge invitations I’ve ever seen, as there’s even a ribbon on the end of them.

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Hainan Airlines boarding pass & lounge invitation

With my boarding pass in hand I headed towards the TSA checkpoint. While the entry to the checkpoint is on the lower level, the actual security checkpoint is up an escalator.

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LAX Terminal 2 security checkpoint

There was quite a line at security, though I noticed there was a premium lane, which was roped off. I saw a contract worker standing maybe 20 feet away, and asked him if there was any way to use the premium lane. Much to my surprise he opened the lane, so it seems it’s very much on demand. That saved me a good 15 minutes.

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LAX Terminal 2 security checkpoint

While the security checkpoint wasn’t that crowded, it was one of the most jumbled security experiences I’ve had in a while. And after looking at the departures monitor I guess that sort of made sense. There were flights to Mexico City, Maui, Del Bajio, Guadalajara, Changsha, and Zacatecas leaving within a couple of hours. It wasn’t your typical Monday morning frequent flyer crowd, that’s for sure.

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Terminal 2 departures board LAX

The new Terminal 2 at LAX is gorgeous. It’s really well done, and so much nicer than how it used to be. It’s on the small side, so it’s not the most exciting place to spend hours on end, though it’s also quite convenient due to its smaller size.

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Renovated LAX Terminal 2

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Renovated LAX Terminal 2

Qatar Airways recently started flights to LAX, and I couldn’t help but laugh at their not-so-modest, completely unqualified ad.

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Qatar Airways’ modest ad

The lounges are located one level up from the main concourse, and you can access them either via swanky, back-lit stairs, or by elevator.

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Renovated LAX Terminal 2

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Renovated LAX Terminal 2

The bad news is that the terminal only has two lounges — there’s the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. Hainan Airlines (along with Qatar Airways) use the Air Canada Lounge for their passengers in Los Angeles. While it’s a perfectly fine lounge, it’s a bit underwhelming when you’re flying two of the world’s so-called 5-star airlines. 😉

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LAX Terminal 2 upper level with lounges

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LAX Terminal 2 upper level with lounges

The Air Canada Lounge is located to the right once at the top of the stairs, down towards the end of the hallway.

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Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX

I’ve reviewed the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Los Angeles before, so won’t do so again in this post. This lounge is also a Priority Pass lounge, meaning you can access this lounge even if you’re not in first or business class. Priority Pass memberships come with several credit cards, including:

For a North American lounge, the Maple Leaf Lounge is actually quite nice. The one thing I noticed is that it was extremely full, presumably due to the number of airlines they’re contracting it out to.

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Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX

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Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX

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Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge LAX

The food spread itself was quite good, though.

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Air Canada Lounge Los Angeles food selection

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Air Canada Lounge Los Angeles food selection

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Air Canada Lounge Los Angeles food selection

I’m also happy to report that the Air Canada Lounge Los Angeles once again serves beer, wine, and liquor. Apparently they didn’t have a license for a while, so that’s great news.

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Air Canada Lounge Los Angeles alcohol selection

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Air Canada Lounge Los Angeles alcohol selection

The other cool thing about the Air Canada Lounge is that you have a nice view of gate 26, which Hainan Airlines uses for their flight.

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Hainan Airlines 787 LAX

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Hainan Airlines 787 LAX

Boarding was scheduled to commence at 11:45AM, so I headed down to the gate at around 11:30AM. Terminal 2 seems to have very limited gate seating, so the area was quite crowded.

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Hainan departure gate LAX

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Hainan departure gate LAX

While the views of the plane were great from the lounge, they weren’t quite as good from the gate, given the pole which was in the way.

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Hainan 787 from gate

As I got up to the gate there was a gate agent roaming around checking passports and boarding passes, so that passports wouldn’t be needed when boarding.

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Hainan departure gate LAX

I think she noticed I was the only English-speaker and/or caucasian in the gate area, so she said “excuse me, this might seem like a weird question, but what are you doing in Changsha? Are you just transiting?”

Hmmm, I figured this was some sort of Heathrow-style security quiz, until she continued.

“My friends and I can get cheap tickets there, and we’re trying to decide if we should go. But we never heard of Changsha before this flight, so aren’t sure if it’s worth visiting.”

I thought that was rather adorable, and probably represents the sentiments of many who see Changsha listed on the departures board.

I explained that I was in exactly the same boat as her, and had no clue what Changsha had to offer, but that I was visiting for a couple of days. She also worked for another Chinese carrier which flies out of LAX, so I told her I’m mainly taking the flight since I had heard good things about Hainan and was curious to check them out, though was also looking forward to seeing Changsha for a couple of days.

At 11:45AM boarding was called. I didn’t actually hear any priority boarding announcements, so I think everyone could board at once. Fortunately I was stationed near the gate when the call was made, since I wanted to get on as soon as possible to take pictures.

Hainan Airlines Lounge & Ground Experience Los Angeles

Hainan Airlines doesn’t have much to work with at LAX — their check-in area is tiny due to space limitations, and there’s only one lounge at Terminal 2 which contracts out to other airlines. So given those parameters, I’d say they’re doing fine. The real thing which “wows” is their chauffeur service, even for those on discounted business class tickets. I don’t know of any other Asian airline which offers chauffeur service in the US, so that’s pretty awesome.

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Comments

  1. So you tipped this limo driver $20 (interesting how you pointed that out), but a Uber driver you’re too cheap to tip. Interesting.

  2. Why would you tip an Uber driver? It is a high volume low margin operation that relies on the convenience of not having cash to begin with.

  3. Re-read the Uber post. Lucky says he DOES tip uber drivers. Practice your reading comprehension skills before unleashing the nasty.

  4. He also tipped $10 to the agent that checked him in and handled his baggage, and $5 to the one who scanned his boarding pass. They make less money than Uber drivers and provided him with services.

  5. The cab driver really couldn’t pronounce/read a 6 letter word? Even if it’s not pronounced phonetically, who-nani can never be compared to ‘Hainan’. Aah, Americans.
    Btw, it was cool of you to show restraint in commenting about the grammar in the limo email. Looks like the Indians taught you a thing or two about cultural sensitivity.

  6. If you can afford it, why not spread the wealth and joy? Depending on length of journey, 25-50 bucks for a limo driver (or what passes for a limo these days) is quite adequate and cash here and there for the hotels, check in agents, baggage agents, bus drivers, etc. are just nice gestures to show one’s appreciation towards them. I always tip Uber drivers and the chartered taxi drivers and commend Lucky for doing the same. In some cases, I also send gifts to certain FA teams if they provided exceptional service on flights. Some chocolates and a bottle of champagne isn’t a dent in the pocket for me, but a warm “thank you so much for taking care of us” could suffice as well.

  7. Jeez. Let the guy tip when he wants. It’s a review on an airline I haven’t even heard of until a few months ago, and I scroll down to the comment section to see yet another argument on tipping? Push yourselves over to some forum that’s not clogging this review with irrelevant arguments. He tipped, and that is that.

  8. Great first installment. On the topic of the lounge being crowded, not only are they contracting out to others, accepting Priority Pass (which some, but not all AC lounges do – LGA does, for instance) but looking at that board, AC itself had 9 flights coming up in the next few hours. At least some of those are 767s – LAX-YYZ is a big volume route, not to mention YUL and YVR. And, they are all full codeshares with UA so that’s a lot of potential access holders on all those flights! Compare that to, say, EK or KE – or even VS for that matter – with a dedicated lounge for 2-ish flights a day and a handful of customers and it’s no surprise. Also, as opposed to US carriers, if you’re flying AC in J you get lounge access so that means even more users. That said, I’ll take any AC lounge over 99% of US carrier lounges any day. Though compared to most ex-North America lounges, they are nothing special. More that US carrier lounges are generally abysmal…

  9. @ Chris — It *is* necessary, unless you wouldn’t tip a server in a restaurant, or a normal driver. I wrote about this a while ago:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/06/03/tip-airline-chauffeur/

    For these airline provided chauffeur services, tip isn’t included. So in the US the expectation is that you tip when you use a car service (the exception is Uber). So not sure what’s unnecessary about it, or would you usually not tip in the US if you were to order a non-Uber car service?

  10. Did you refer the gate agent to your blog so that she can find out whether it was worth going to Changsa or not?

  11. “There were flights to Mexico City, Maui, Del Bajio, Guadalajara, Changsha, and Zacatecas leaving within a couple of hours. It wasn’t your typical Monday morning frequent flyer crowd, that’s for sure.”

    – This feels rather classist, if not racist.

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