International Connections At LAX Just Got Easier

It’s no secret that some of the biggest airports in the US are poorly designed. For example, both JFK and LAX are terrible when it comes to connections between airlines, since most terminals aren’t connected airside. And let’s not even talk about their lack of decent public transportation to their respective cities.

The good news is that Los Angeles Airport is getting better, as they’re building airside connector tunnels between different terminals. As I first wrote about in late January, LAX is in the process of building a connector tunnel between American’s Terminal 4 and Tom Bradley International Terminal.

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Tom Bradley International Terminal LAX

Then there are tunnels connecting Terminals 4 through 8, meaning it’ll be possible to transit airside between Tom Bradley International Terminal and Terminals 4-8. That’s fantastic news, and a huge improvement over the old system of having to leave the terminal, walk along the outside roadway, and then clearing security again.

The good news is that per Brian Sumers, the LAX connector tunnel between Terminal 4 and Tom Bradley International Terminal is open as of today, Thursday, February 25, 2016.

There are two significant implications here:

International connections have just become a lot easier

Most of American’s flights depart out of Terminal 4, while most of their partner airlines, including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, etc., depart from Tom Bradley International Terminal.

A while back Tiffany wrote about how ridiculous the transfer process is when going from Terminal 4 to Tom Bradley International Terminal, though this will no longer be an issue. Now you can take the connector tunnel from Terminal 4 to TBIT, which shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.

TBIT
Walking between T4 and TBIT

Keep in mind that LAX lets you clear security at any terminal with a same day boarding pass, so in many cases even if you’re originating in LAX, it could make the most sense to clear security at Terminal 4 and then walk to Tom Bradley International Terminal, given how crazy security lines can be at TBIT at times.

Other airlines depart out of Tom Bradley International Terminal as well, so if you’re connecting from United (Terminal 7) to Singapore Airlines, or from Delta (Terminal 5) to Korean Air, it could make sense to use these tunnels as well. Just remember they’ll take a while, because from Terminal 7 you’ll have to take the tunnel to Terminal 6, then to Terminal 5, then to Terminal 4, then to Tom Bradley International Terminal. It’ll be a haul, but could still be worth it for the purposes of not having to clear security again.

This makes better lounges easier to use

Personally what I’m most excited about are the lounge options this makes much easier. Tom Bradley International Terminal has some great lounges, including the following:

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Star Alliance First Class Lounge LAX

For example, as a oneworld flyer, this means it’ll be really easy to use the lounges at Tom Bradley International Terminal, even when flying American out of Terminal 4. It’ll just be a 10-15 minute walk between terminals without having to clear security. What are the implications of this?

  • American Executive Platinum members can use the Qantas First Class Lounge when traveling internationally the same day
  • Non-American oneworld Emerald members can use the Qantas First Class Lounge when booked on a oneworld flight, even if it’s domestic
  • American Platinum members can use the oneworld Business Class Lounge when traveling internationally the same day
  • Non-American oneworld Sapphire members can use the oneworld Business Class Lounge when booked on a oneworld flight, even if it’s domestic

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Qantas First Class Lounge LAX

Furthermore, Star Alliance Gold members (even those who earn the status through United) should be able to use the Star Alliance Business Class Lounge, even when traveling domestically.

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Star Alliance Business Class Lounge LAX

Bottom line

I’m thrilled that this terminal connector is finally open, which makes connections for oneworld flyers especially easy, and also makes connections easier for those connecting between other terminals.

While the actual lounge access policy isn’t changing, previously I didn’t really consider it to be worthwhile to visit the Qantas Lounge if it meant clearing security twice. I’ll be visiting a lot more often now that it doesn’t require an extra trip through security — I can taste the salt & pepper squid already!

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Salt & pepper squid at the Qantas First Lounge

Is anyone else excited about the LAX connector to TBIT finally being open?

If anyone is able to use the new connector tunnel in the next couple of days, please report back (and if you have pictures, all the better)!

Comments

  1. Thanks Lucky. I have a UA flight arriving at T8 and then connecting to a flight to LHR in T7 in F. Given the crummy UA lounge options in T7, I’m thinking about making the trek to the star alliance lounge. Do you have any sense how long the walk would be from T8 to the TBIT using the tunnels and connectors and do you have an opinion whether the Star Alliance F lounge in TBIT is worth it?

    The walk looks really complicated and long so I’m thinking probably not worth it, but curious what you think.

  2. @Larry, it’s a haul. Not worth it unless you have a seriously long connection given that you’ll need to clear security at each terminal and the walk itself is awful (unless you hop on a bus/taxi to go allll the way around).

  3. @Graham – thanks. Yeah, I would never consider it if I had to re-clear security twice, but was wondering whether it might be worth it now that clearing security is not necessary. (Walk from T8 to T6 using the connectors, walk down the pier half way to T6, take the tunnels from T6 to T5 to T4, and then take the new connector to TBIT.) Just looking at google maps, it seems to be an awful long way, but it’s really hard to judge, and so I guess I was trying to figure out is it 20 minutes or is 50 minutes.

  4. @Larry, sorry might have read that wrong, it appears won’t have to re-clear if you take all the tunnels between 4-8 and then use T4-TBIT tunnel, but it’ll still a take a long ass time. 🙂

  5. This probably still doesn’t mean sterile transit for us Europeans? That would be the day I get excited about this kind of news…

  6. “And let’s not even talk about their lack of decent public transportation to their respective cities.”

    For LAX sure, but JFK has subway connections as well as the LIRR, and hell, even busses if you want.

  7. “Non-American oneworld Sapphire members can use the oneworld Business Class Lounge when traveling internationally the same day”

    Is that correct? That’s the same as American Platinum members, then. I thought non-American oneworld Sapphire could get into business class lounges, including Admiral clubs even when traveling domestically within the US.

  8. @ David — Personally I still don’t consider buses or having to connect from the AirTrain to a subway to be a great transportation option for a city as big as NYC.

  9. @Larry, it is indeed a very long haul. A few weeks ago, I used the tunnel to go from T4 to T6. (AA has some gates in T6.) It took about 10-12 minutes, so from T8 to TBIT will be longer. The tunnel between T4-T6 resembles a service corridor and is relatively narrow. There were no moving walkways to assist.

  10. Ben, do you know if you can move between terminals at SFO with one boarding pass like you can at LAX? I have a red eye flight leaving out of SFO Terminal 1 soon. I want to spend a couple of hours at the Centurion Lounge in Terminal 3. Will TSA at SFO let me move between terminals? Thanks, John.

  11. JFK – has taxis, buses, and connections to the subway and LIRR. What it doesn’t have is a European style commuter train station underground (and that’s never happening).

    What are “decent” public transportation options? Uber?

  12. Ben, does this help people connecting in the reverse manner, IE from an international flight in TBIT to a domestic one in T4 (have one on AA coming up, arriving from LHR then going domestic on AA to OGG. 1:40 connection time so any improvement on that would ease my concern a bit)? Thanks!

  13. @ Nathaniel Moore — Unfortunately not really, unless you want to clear security at TBIT, which probably isn’t actually faster. That’s assuming you’re arriving internationally and have to clear immigration.

  14. @John At SFO T3 and International G are connected.
    There is a separate connection between T1C and T2D
    Short answer is no

  15. @Nathaniel Moore, all passengers must pass US immigration in a secure area before connecting onwards so u would have to go through security again to use the tunnel.

  16. The connection to the LIRR isn’t bad, but even the station is kind of far from the airport and it isn’t a seamless transition. lots of walking and climbing and descending stairs at both ends of the airtrain. Guess lucky thinks decent options are the European-style train stations at the airport with minimal hassle and relatively short travel times into the city.

    The subway+airtrain option takes years to get into the city. LIRR is pretty quick, but there is no equivalent option for say getting to Brooklyn or anywhere else in Manhattan that isn’t chaotic, dingy Penn Station. Flat fare cab rides both to and from the airport is a great transport option though, so that’s nice.

  17. It’s not a “tunnel”. It’s a bridge that’s above ground. Frankly, I didn’t think T4-TBIT was as bad as it was portrayed. Just walk outside, turn left and walk along the pavement and boom you’re there. Yes, reclearing security was annoying, but the walk itself from the terminal was nowhere near as bad as it was meant to be. Especially if just going from T4 to TBIT.

  18. Thanks @Lucky and @Oscar. Wishful thinking! Realistically, will we have a chance of making it? We are in Business so off the plane quickly…

  19. Lucky, lets say you are coming from an SAN flight landing at the regional terminal, taking the bus to T4. Should I proceed directly to the right using the tunnel or the the escalator up and then take the bridge to avoid security?
    Trying to figure out the route and location of the bridge.

  20. Wasn’t there some hoopla a few months ago about Qanta First Class lounge denying access to EXPs, to the point of calling the cops if the flyer argued?

  21. Is it really that much quicker to go from security at Terminal 4 to TBIT to get to the lounge? Instead of going through TBIT security and getting to the lounge?

    It seems to me more time to go through the T4 to get to the TBIT lounge.

  22. Lucky,

    I’m flying out of TBIT to Japan, but don’t have status at all. I do have AA lounge passes that I’d like to use though. After checking in my bags at TBIT, I plan to walk outside to T4, clear security, then spend some time in the AA lounge. After some snacks, walk the bridge to TBIT without clearing security again. Does this sound feasible? Thanks.

  23. “The subway+airtrain option takes years to get into the city.”

    This is wrong. AirTrain + E during daytime hours takes approximately 1 hour from the AirTrain station to 53rd/7th. If you’re going to the East Side of Manhattan, it takes even less. I’ve done it many times. And, as you point out, the LIRR is faster and runs frequently even as late as 12:30am.

    The system is more convoluted than it should be, but Lucky is completely wrong to say there’s a “lack of decent public transportation” from JFK. It is very decent, even if it’s inferior to European airports (or the Blue Line to ORD). I’d take public transportation to JFK to/from Manhattan during the day over an Uber or a cab, hands down, given traffic.

  24. Depends if you’re travelling at peak times. If you got an early morning flight it isn’t too bad. Gets pack in the evening… and there is no TSA precheck at TB.

  25. @Larry, @Graham, it’s really not that far to walk from T7 to TBIT. It’s maybe 150 yards between each terminal – I’m able to walk the length of each tunnel in 2-3 mins. I routinely walk from T4 to T7 in probably 10, 12 minutes tops. I can’t imagine going from T7 to TBIT would take more than 20 minutes, at most. I’d put it more like 15. It’s just not that far – it’s not more than half a mile (I’d say a bit under that), so you figure most people can walk a normal half mile in 7-8 mins, so double that just to account for a carryon and going up/down escalators between tunnels, and I’m pretty confident in 15 mins (again, max 20).

  26. I second what @BigDaddyJ says

    It can be a bit confusing if you are unfamiliar, but during the day, you can plan on 1h15 door to gate from most parts of Manhattan to your gate at JFK via Subway, Airtrain and TSA. It is more reliable and less soul crushing than taking a cab in traffic and it saves you $50 or more versus taking a cab.

    @rfrn – LIRR runs pretty frequently to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and this connects with nearly every subway line in Brooklyn.

  27. Yay, the one downside of flying Lax-LHR on AA has been removed, don’t need to use that awful admirals club again.

    I guess arriving from LHR you would still have to walk externally as once you are through immigration and customs won’t be able to access the tunnel?

  28. @Tom
    you’re right about atlantic terminal. don’t know how I forgot. But I’m not convinced about the A or E trains to the air train being good transport options. And that’s the point. Lucky travels so much and to so many places that by his standards JFK’s public transport options may be near the bottom for an itn’l airport in a major city.

  29. In 2102 I flew ord-lax-ppt on Air Tahiti Nui. When we arrived at lax we had to get new bording passes from Air Tahiti Nui.

    We are flying this same route again. Will we have to go out of the secure area to get boarding passes like we did in the past?

  30. Just had the salt & pepper squid in the Qantas First lounge at LAX a few nights ago – superb!

    I was hoping when I had to transfer from my AA transcon arriving in T4 to my Qantas flight departing TBIT, as well as for a few earlier flights from 1-2 weeks prior in & out of LAX that it would be open to allow me to gain lounge access (I am AA Platinum), but alas, it wasn’t. Long overdue, and yes; I am very exited for future travels in and out of LAX.

  31. “Star Alliance Gold members (even those who earn the status through United) should be able to use the Star Alliance Business Class Lounge, even when traveling domestically” — why is that the case for UA’s Star Gold members, who are allowed access to Star lounges only when traveling on int’l itins?

  32. Nice – that it is opened. I was at LAX last weekend and asked at the AC club and the agent said she was hearing late March. But I did walk over to the entrance from Term 4 and they were already doing wall changes and had cut the top part of the partition.

    I am flying through this weekend out of TBIT and will definitely enter security via Term 4 at AA priority section. TBIT is just too backed up.

  33. Been through LAX 6 times in two weeks, twice thru intl terminal, including today, LAX to Kauai out of intl gate 159. No upgrade of course, even though 1st on list. The referenced passageway is opening tmrw! BTW the BA club there is only available if you are flying business or first international, regardless of Admirals Club membership or OW sapphire status. Always go thru terminal 4 tsa, there is no PreCheck at the international terminal.

  34. @rfrn: the A is fairly slow to Manhattan (and only every other A even stops at Howard Beach), but the E is actually very fast—it’s a major express train in Queens. During rush hours it makes only 6 stops from Archer/Sutphin/JFK before it gets into Manhattan (and only about 8 outside of rush hours). For midtown Manhattan it’s a very good choice, better than the LIRR since it goes to both the East and West Side. It also runs very frequently. The main issue with taking the E is that it can get pretty crowded, so I only really take it if I have relatively small carry-ons.

    The irony is, the transit options from JFK are rich and flexible, better than many other cities, as they target many areas (Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan). It’s just unfortunately more complicated than it needs to be… but if you’re a regular traveler to New York it’s definitely worth doing it.

  35. Wow, we are serious geeks for watching YouTube videos of someone walking through an airport hallway. Thanks though Stefan, that was good to see.

    I love that at the end we get to look down on the TBIT security and be like suckerrrss! Now if just it would drop me right in front of the Emirates lounge, which might be the case from the video?

  36. On 22 FEB I arrived to LAX Terminal 5 on a UA flight from NRT. There are USCIS checks inside those LAX numbered Terminals and if that is where your flight pulls in you may have to go outside to the sidewalk to get to get to a different connecting Terminal, as I did going between arrival at 5 and going to 8 for my UA connection to SAN. I asked and there was no inside option.

  37. I am taking my 2 daughters to Cartagena on Copa AL on 3/16. I arrive on United Express in Terminal 7/8 and I assume I can walk the tunnel airside to T6 for Copa AL departures without going thru security. Correct?

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