LAX Ranks Worst For Elapsed Time From Landing To Gate Arrival

There are all kinds of statistics about the airports which rank worst in certain categories — worst average delays, worst passenger experience, etc.

A study was just recently published about a new “worst” category I hadn’t yet heard of. Per the Los Angeles Times:

A study by MileCards.com, a website that compares loyalty reward programs, found that during the busy summer travel season, it takes planes at LAX an average of nearly 11 minutes to arrive at their gate after landing. In contrast, the shortest time from landing to gate is at San Diego International Airport — just under four minutes.

I think it’s no surprise that San Diego ranks best, given that it has a single runway, and that the runway ends right near the terminal.

As far as Los Angeles goes, I’m a bit surprised to read this on one hand, given that I consider the airport to be fairly functionally designed in terms of operations, at least given its size (the same can’t be said for the lack of airside connections between some terminals).

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Tom Bradley International Terminal LAX

On the other hand, I get why it’s probably not ranking well at the moment:

  • Typically planes land on the outer runways (25L and 24R), while they take off on the inner runways (25R and 24L), meaning when you land you have to wait to cross another active runway
  • The airport has a north side (runways 24L & 24R) and south side (25L & 25R), and the terminals are distributed along the two sides (Terminals 1-3 are on the north side, Terminals 4-8 are on the south side, and Tom Bradley International Terminal is in the middle); sometimes flights will land on the south side when they’re parking on the north side, and sometimes they’ll land on the north side when they’re parking on the south side, which can add significant taxi times
  • There’s plenty of construction going on at LAX, and many airlines are operating at capacity (like American, which is adding gates), meaning there often aren’t gates on landing; I’ve had three American flights in the past few months where we had to wait 30+ minutes after landing for our gate to be available
  • There are quite a few tight gates at LAX, requiring planes to be towed into the gate, which adds time to the process; the engines have to be shut off, tug has to be attached, and then the plane is towed in

All of this is to say that on a good day I find LAX to have among the shortest taxi times, like if you’re landing on runway 25L and if your gate at Terminal 4 is ready. Then other times the taxi times are horrible, like if you’re landing on 25L, taxiing over to Terminal 2, and then have to wait 30 minutes for your gate to be ready.

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Crossing the runway at LAX

Still, if I had to guess, I would have said that JFK has much worse average taxi times, given the runway and terminal layout.

Which airport have you had the worst experience with in terms of the time from landing till you arrive at the gate?

Comments

  1. Have you thought about ORD?! When you land on 27R I’ve had 30-40 minute taxi times many times, sometimes longer

  2. I’ve flown to SFO several times time year and it’s always been slow.
    The worst was the last time: 65 mins. A plane broke down at our gate, and instead of towing it out WE went and sat in a quiet part of the taxiway for over 1 hour.
    I was ok, but others in the back of the plane were frantic.

  3. Looking at the study JFK and ORD do indeed come very very close to LAX in long taxi to gate times.

    I agree on the reasons LAX performs worse than its footprint would imply.

  4. You missed one part of the tight gates issue – it’s not just the tugs, but it’s also how the closeness of the terminals (e.g., 5 and 6) that creates wait time as planes pushing back need to clear the alleyway before arriving planes can go in

  5. Ben,

    Let’s face it. LAX is a hot mess and no number of “new Wolfgang Puck” outlets ( I flew AA out of T6 last night on my cxn via PHX back to the east coast) is going to change that. The food amenities are nice, but the layout of the whole airport that was innovative in 1962 when LBJ flew out there to open it… wll today, it’s cramped, hard-to-get-to and generally a pain in the asssss.

    The reason arriving flights always use the “outside” runways is due to a air traffic control F/U years ago where the controller landed an inbound plane on top of a Taxi-and-Hold departing Skywest flight sitting on the numbers on one of the ‘inside’ runways (closest to today’s T1). It was awful and they revamped procedures to ensure that arriving and departing flights always use different runways.

    The ‘standard deviation’ on taxi times is all over the map. You are right that if you land on the “correct” side of the field it’s not bad. If you are on UA and arrive on the “north side”, well, it can be 30-40 minutes to tour the airport to get around to T7/8 via the pylons and the maintenance hangars and freight ops.

    I still contend that LAX is ‘unfixable’ in its current form. The terminals are too close together (the alleys between 4-5, 6-7 are a bottleneck.), the mass transit is non-existent and the ‘hour’ it takes to navigate the passengers arrival area at 10PM on a Friday Night is just stupid.

    I’m through there twice a week and hate every second of it.

  6. The problem is that every entrance to the gates is a cul de sac. Gotta wait for others to clear.

  7. Eleven minutes sounds fabulous. I fly through CLT all the time and it’s a minimum 20 minute high speed taxi to a gate. That’s if the pilot is willing to haul ass, and if there are no other planes on any taxiways, which never happens. Then around half the time when you arrive at the gate there are no ground personnel ready for the aircraft. So you sit and wait while you miss your connection, which you can sometimes literally see from your window. It’s a terrible place to fly through and extremely frustrating.

  8. One time I crossed the zebra crossing as a pedestrian when I had the red light. I wad paying attention and I didn’t see it. No I wasn’t looking at my phone. One of the airport shuttle bus drivers went ballistic. Seems to me LA is also shitty place to live. Too much stress.

  9. Going to depend ‘which terminal’ and when, but this is averages, and positing that the math is right [I haven’t looked at the study] I’m going to bet that on average O’Hare and DFW rank essentially equally as bad. In my own experiences ORD and DFW take slightly longer, but again which terminal you’re headed to.

    Of course departure queues are a much bigger deal than arrival-to-gate time and LAX isn’t going to be anywhere close to the 3 New York-area airports [plus PHL].

  10. @Samoa “Who cares about 11min taxiing when immigration takes 1-2 hours?”

    You said it. Fix immigration first.

  11. @owen @samoa – get global entry. Has made a world of a difference. Takes the pain out of the super long immigration lines

  12. Im not at all surprised at the stat. LAX is the only airport where I have missed my connection- and more than once-after landing on time. At least ORD flights schedule in the extra taxi time.

  13. “The reason arriving flights always use the “outside” runways is due to a air traffic control F/U years ago where the controller landed an inbound plane on top of a Taxi-and-Hold departing Skywest flight sitting on the numbers on one of the ‘inside’ runways”

    Actually the Skywest flight was a Metroliner that was waiting for an intersection departure. The 737 which landed and then slammed into them while it was on rollout after touchdown. If they had been on the numbers, chances are the USAir flight would have passed over top of them.

    And “leaving on the inside” approach was actually in place for many years at various airports with similar layouts (MCO for example) before the LAX disaster. It was even used at LAX prior to the disaster since it was mentioned in at least one of the human factors papers about that incident as part of what contributed to it- in a small way- was the habit of switching back and forth between alternating departures and landings on the same way and the “inner-outer” tactic.

    One other thing- it was “position and hold” not “taxi-and-hold” (now ICAO “line up and wait”).

  14. @andy: Sounds like you connect through terminal E in CLT. Not a great experience (I fly through there every week as well), but the other terminals are much better in my experience. The way E is situated and the fact that its all regional jets definitely lends a lot to the problem.

  15. @Samoa and @Owen say it all. @Brian – global entry is not available to non-US citizens. The only time in 5 visits in as many years that I’ve been through immigration in less than 2 hours was when a flight from AUS was running late and there were about 100 people making a connecting flight to NYC. Screeched through Immigration in 10 minutes only to have a 40-minute wait at security as there was only one lane open. Welcome to America. The 11-min taxi to a gate seems like bliss compared to the rest of the experience. Not saying arriving in AUS is much better at times. Seems like this “study” is to distract from the real issues of LAX.

  16. clearly a US only survey then, so results are actually not relevant in the scope of international travel.

    LHR i would say is generally more than 11 mins, however im guaranteed that IST will still have worse times

  17. LAX is bad all around from the shitty indifferent attitude of the TSA who don’t care if you miss your flight to the general grumpiness of its airport employees. There’s always construction to stress you out.

    SFO is a little better… But after landing last week in a SQ flight from ICN we had to wait for an hour for a gate to become available. Don’t they have any contingency plans like bringing buses. In most other countries I’ve visited this kind of waiting would be unthinkable.

  18. I would guess JFK may be worse than average for oneworld passengers since Terminal 7 is a mess with lots of tow-in gates and both it and Terminal 8 are far from the most commonly used runways. So Lucky your experience of JFK may be worse than average–JetBlue passengers at T5 usually have a pretty short inbound taxi due to the location of their terminal and the good layout of the gates, and similarly for Delta passengers at T2 and T4.

  19. I have a tough time believing LAX is worse than DFW in that regard, though at DFW, it also depends on your luck of the draw regarding which runway you land on and which terminal you’re headed to. I’ve had <5 minute taxis, and some pushing 20 minutes, and that's without the dreaded wait in the penalty box because your gate isn't available. The penalty box problem was largely fixed about 10 years ago, though I haven't flown much since AA re-configured their banks, so I don't know if it's become an issue again.

  20. The article seems to be a solution in search of a problem. While inbound taxi times are inconvenient, I’m more concerned about how long it takes from the time my feet hit the jet bridge to the time my checked bags are available. I know, “real travelers don’t check luggage.” I sometimes have to when traveling for work with all the extra stuff I carry with me.

    One of the more memorable ones was when T5/T6 at LAX were undergoing renovations in the baggage claim area back in 2014. My plane landed at one terminal and baggage claim was in the other. They ran us through the circa 1960s underground tunnel between the terminals. When you’re not feeling well, that’s a long haul with a heavy carry-on. Even at that, by the time I reached the conveyor belt, my flight’s luggage hadn’t come through yet.

    On the reverse side, I can think of many long, dreadful, outgoing taxi queues at LHR/JFK/ORD/DFW.

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