How To Get Between Terminals At LAX

Airports can be confusing, particularly in the case of terminals designed for the jet era that haven’t adapted as well to modern aviation. The terminal shift at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this year has inspired improved wayfinding, but we still get questions every week about how to get around and between terminals at LAX.

It’s not intuitive.

A recent post from reader Rohit reminded me that I’ve been meaning to address this in a blog post, with visuals that will hopefully be helpful to others as well. If you frequent LAX, please feel free to share your tips in the comments as well. (Note: all maps are courtesy Los Angeles World Airports, Family Circus-style annotations by me).

To start, it’s worth reiterating that if you have a valid boarding pass for a same-day departure from any LAX terminal, you can enter and clear security at any terminal. This may or may not be a benefit, depending on your situation, but it’s good to know the rule.

As an overview, here’s the configuration of the various terminals at LAX, and the corresponding airlines:

If you’re not sure what terminal you’re dealing with, the gate number will give you a clue:

  • The numbering convention at LAX has the first number represent the terminal (so all gates in a given terminal start with the number of that terminal)
  • The second number represents the location of the gate (and with the exception of T3 and TBIT, odd numbers are on the right, and even on the left)
  • If a gate is split, a letter may follow the numbers

So gate 23A, which is not the same as gate 23 (these should really be 23A and 23B, but whatever), is on the right-hand-side of terminal 2.

I know that seems like a pedantic thing to clarify, but knowing the layout will be super helpful when we start talking about airside connections.

Pre-Security / Landside connections

All the terminals are connected by a double-decker roadway, and there’s a landside shuttle that runs counter-clockwise around the loop. That’s helpful if you have to take bags from one carrier’s baggage claim to another’s check-in counter, but in most cases walking is more efficient.

If you’re landside, I highly recommend taking an elevator or escalator up to the departures level, as while there are sidewalks on both tiers, the lower arrivals level is very smoggy. It’s also more convenient to cut through the parking structures if you need to go to a terminal that is directly across, like from T1 to T8.

Post-Security / Airside connections

With the exception of Terminal 1 (sorry Southwest!), every other terminal at LAX can be accessed from at least one other terminal, without having to leave security. Doing so, however, requires a series of bridges and tunnels, along with the occasional bus.

Let’s look at the terminals again:

Terminal 2 & Terminal 3

Delta has a shuttle between their gates in T2, T3, and TBIT. They’re going to build a bridge eventually (like 2023) too, but for now they suggest allowing at least 10 minutes for the bus.

T3 has long been the worst terminal at LAX, so you really don’t want to go there unless your flight leaves from there. Similarly, the shuttle to TBIT drops you off waaaay at the end of the terminal, down in the section that looks like a Costco.

I don’t know if you can use the Delta shuttle if you’re not flying Delta, but honestly — if you need to get to/from T6 to T2 or something, it’s almost certainly going to be faster to just walk outside and clear security again versus going through all this rigamarole.

Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT)

If you are arriving at TBIT from an international flight, you’ll have to clear US Customs and Immigration, so will end up landside regardless. If you just want to use the TBIT lounges and amenities, you can clear security in the other terminals (like T4, which has PreCheck), walk over to TBIT, and walk back.

There’s a skybridge between TBIT and T4, which makes this doable. You’ll want to go behind the big Duty Free Shop, towards the elevators for the airline lounges.

LAX-Terminal-Connector - 14

There’s a ramp leading to a series of hallways, which have progressively more windows as you go. It takes 5-10 minutes to make this walk, depending on how crowded the terminal is.

LAX-Terminal-Connector - 7

Terminal 4

This is where it starts to get fun. The connector bridge from TBIT drops you out just after security in T4. To continue on to the other terminals without having to leave the secure area, go deeper in to the terminal until you see the escalator near “Gate 44”

Gate 44 is literally a bus stop, which you don’t want. Instead go downstairs, and follow the signs for Terminal 5.

These tunnels were closed for several years after 9/11, and despite some attempts to update with some artwork, they feel extra-vintage. Again, plan 5-10 minutes to walk depending on crowding.

Terminal 5

If you’re continuing on to T6, just stay on the tunnel level and keep walking. If you want to connect from T5 to other terminals, use the escalators in the center of the terminal to access the lower level.

Terminal 6

If you don’t feel like a hamster yet, this transfer should put you over the edge.

From the tunnels, take the escalator up to the main concourse. The follow the signs towards the front of the terminal. When you see the TSA area, keep right, and there will be a little hallway that jogs around the corner.

The connecting bridge between T6 and T7 is relatively short, and should only take five minutes or so.

Terminals 7 & 8

While the connection between these two terminals is obvious, the corridor to T6 is a bit hidden. If you’re coming from T6 this isn’t a problem, but if you’re looking to leave T7, the connector is tucked away in a corner behind 71A:

Both the T6 <> T7 and T7 <> T8 connectors are on the concourse level, but it takes a bit longer to get to T8. Distances are further than they look, and T8 is super crowded, so I’d plan 8-10 minutes here.

Bottom line

In theory it’s possible to get between all terminals at LAX but T1 without leaving the secured area. In practice, this is most useful for getting between TBIT and T4-T8, and makes enjoying the superior lounges and retail in TBIT a reasonable option.

And Delta travelers are probably better off sticking to T2 anyway, as the SkyClub there is better than the Korean Air lounge in TBIT.

Any other tips for connecting at LAX?

Comments

  1. Of I had a pesk-hour flight (late evening Asia/Aus) from TBIT would it make more sense to clear security in T4 then just walk over there, avoiding the mess that is TBIT security?

  2. The only problem that I have faced is that at the TBIT US CBP exit from customs, what I’ve found is that there isn’t a desk for the major airlines staffed all the times. I arrived on AA from Mexico and was connecting onto an AS flight. They could not issue me a AS BP in Mexico, so i was looking for a AS xfer desk at TBIT – did not exist. No problem walking over the T6, but it would be good to have major airlines have xfer desks staffed in TBIT.

  3. @ Max — It certainly can! T4 security can still take a long time during peak periods though, and they make you take everything out of your bag and remove shoes if you don’t have PreCheck, as opposed to the more “expedited” process TBIT generally uses.

  4. LAX is much better than JFK. At least TSA at LAX allows you enter a terminal if you’re departing from another terminal. Not in JFK.

    Last time I want to use a lounge in JFK T5 and my flight departs from T7. TSA refused me to enter T5. Too bad.

  5. @ D$ — It would be, but is unlikely to happen. Mobile boarding passes can make this a bit easier, but if you’re already landside at TBIT it’s faster to walk outside to T6 than to use the tunnels anyway.

  6. Very helpful article!
    Its worth noting there is another tunnel at Terminal 4 that goes out to baggage claim, in addition to the tunnel that goes to Terminal 5. There isn’t much signage and it is easy to simply follow the crowd of people and accidentally end up exiting the terminal and security.

  7. I am arriving to LAX via Etihad and leaving from LAX via Southwest for domestic destination.
    What would be efficient way to change terminals? How much time should I keep between two flights to ensure I don’t miss my domestic connection? Is 3 Hr sufficient?

  8. LAX is my home airport, and it has been dealing with too much vehicle traffic for a long time. Now, with about 16 airlines changing terminals this year, terminal remodeling, new Uber/Lyft curbside pick-up locations launched, and preparation for a new people-mover in advance of light rail connection for the 2024 Olympics, it is getting pretty bad around the clock.

    Please do allow extra time, and remember that all traffic moves in one slow counter-clockwise slog. Since United is my preferred carrier, I am always at the last terminal stop. It can take over 30 minutes to travel around all the terminals, so I will often ask to be dropped off at Terminal 1 (Southwest) and walk across to save time.

  9. @ desikid — If it’s reasonable for your situation (ie you don’t have mobility or baggage constraints), walking outside is the most efficient. Otherwise you can take the intra-terminal bus from the arrivals area.

    3 hours should be plenty, as you’ll have already pre-cleared US Customs in Abu Dhabi.

  10. “so I will often ask to be dropped off at Terminal 1 (Southwest) and walk across to save time.” but your ride will still have to spend 30 mins getting out?

  11. @Tiffany. thanks for the information. I will have luggage so seems like I will need to use intra-terminal bus.

  12. @Max @ Tiffany I was wondering that too, thanks for bringing that up. In the future I would definitely go through T4 and walk over to TBIT. At least with AA priority line you have a fighting chance. TBIT security is a nightmare.

    Can you use Clear if you are flying on a carrier that doesn’t have PreCheck?

  13. TBIT had precheck when I used the connector TSA checkpoint(arrivals level), the challenge is your departing airline, and if they participate.

  14. @desikid, personally, after clearing customs I would walk out to curbside and snag a luggage cart (they charge you at the terminal to get them, but usually pretty easy to get a free one as people get into their cars, etc. ) and walk over to T1. It will be anywhere from 20-60mins faster depending on traffic. With 3hrs you certainly have plenty of time, I just personally don’t like to be confined to a shuttle in traffic, but your preference for hauling luggage vs. being confined may differ from mine.

  15. FWIW, it’s theoretically possible to make it from T6 to T4 in 4 minutes at a full sprint. I learned that the hard way a few months ago thanks to a delayed AS flight leaving me a 20-minute connection to AA!

    @Max As Brodie mentioned there is a “hidden” security checkpoint on the arrivals level with Precheck, but that may or may not help you if your airline doesn’t participate. T4 is *usually* better, but not always. Back before I had Precheck, I’ve had ~30 minute waits at T4 during peak hours. I assume your flight is a late night departure, though, so T4 should be much quicker.

  16. @ Bob — Correct, there is no PreCheck, but the “style” of screening done in TBIT is generally PreCheck-esque. I haven’t had to remove shoes or liquids during screening at TBIT in years.

  17. I’m flying next week to Aus on VA. They tell me I check in at T2 and walk to TBIT. How far is that walk, anyone know?

    I ask because my wife has broken her foot and is on crutches and not very mobile.

  18. @ Adam — It’s probably five minutes, but TBIT itself is fairly large. I would probably recommend asking your wife if she’d be opposed to having wheelchair assistance at the airport. It would certainly make things easier for her.

  19. How does the bus service work for American Eagle to Terminal 5? Does it work both ways – arriving flights and departing flights? Do you have to go through security either way if you are connecting at LAX?

  20. @ Donna — The American Eagle “Terminal” is basically a bus gate as far as the main airport is concerned. It used to be numbered 44A-I (to encourage you to take the bus from T4), then was numbered 60A-I (to encourage you to take the bus from T6), and now is apparently numbered 52A-I (to get you to take the bus from T5).

    But there are bus stops at both Gate 44 and Gate 52, so you just take the bus to/from either to the Eagle Nest. You don’t have to go through security again.
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2016/05/19/american-eagle-terminal-lax/

  21. Tiffany, I happened to be using these tunnels/bridges just a few days ago, and took a photo of the helpful map that shows similar directions as your above post, with further detail and clarity. Here it is in case others + you may find it helpful:
    https://imgur.com/cNVLPCo

  22. A few weeks ago I was on an all DL domestic itinerary. I had read reports that DL passengers could access the Korean Airlines lounge. After clearing security @ TBIT I headed up to the KE lounge. I was denied access! KE said that only KE business and KE first passengers were allowed in the lounge. Was that just a busy day why they were denying entry to others? Or does KE no longer allow DL passengers to use their lounge?

  23. @ Tiffany I am arriving with AC at terminal 6 and connecting to QR at TBIT what is the best way to use the tunnels or outside?

  24. They say “52x”; shuttle gate is right across from the Rock-n-Brews, before you go down the ramp to the main T5 Admirals Club.

  25. @ erick schmitt — THANK YOU! I took a photo of one of these maps last time I was in LAX, but the High Sierra update seems to have somehow disabled my SD card reader, so getting it off my camera got too complicated. Appreciate it!

  26. @ Akelly — If your bags are tagged through, I’d stay airside and use the tunnels. If you have to claim and recheck your bags, outside is the only real option.

  27. Hi Tiffany,

    Excellent post. One scenario is missing.

    What’s the process if you fly on a domestic sector into TBIT and need to connect to terminal 4 – is there an expedited domestic transfer path or do you have to queue up and explain yourself to an immigration official?

    Earlier this year I was booked out of DFW connecting to YVR via LAX. When I saw the arrivals gate number I queried AA ExpP desk who had no definitive answer. I had 56 minutes connection and knowing the TBIT T$ route very well was not concerned about the time to move gate to gate. Was just concerned about getting held up passing through immigration/customs. In the end, I just listed for an earlier flight arriving at T4.

  28. @ Rich — The doors and jetbridges at TBIT have the functionality to allow passengers to be deposited in the terminal rather than in immigration. So unless the gate agent messes something up, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t have sterile transit.

  29. @ Tiffany thank you for the advise. My bags will be tagged all the way hence no worries to get out. Useful article, appreciated.

  30. @Tiffany, “With the exception of Terminal 1 (sorry Southwest!), every other terminal at LAX can be accessed from at least one other terminal” is incorrect. There is an airside bus between T1 and TBIT

  31. We are flying in on delta arriving at 840pm and leaving on southwest at 1015pm. We will need to get our luggage and then check it again at southwest. We are first class coming in on delta and have precheck. I’m planning on walking from hopefully t2 to t1. I assume 95 minutes should be enough for this?

  32. Domestic, taking the 757 with Delta One from DCA. I’ve been wanting to fly it since it started so making it work even though our destination isn’t LA. Southwest has a later flight so we do have a possible backup. Thanks for the reply.

  33. AA has made a schedule change for me from a 2:45 layover to only 1:45 between SYD-LAX and LAX-MIA –that seems tight for TBIT to T4, even with GE. Agreed?

  34. @evan: Right past the parking building for Terminal 1, you can turn left and end up at Terminals 6 & 7. There’s no reason to drive the whole way around the curve…

  35. The length of the security line at TBIT can depend greatly on (1) the time of the day, and (2) whether the TSA bomb detection K-9 is on duty. Late evening can be very hectic when all the flights depart for Asia. When the TSA K-9 is on duty, then it is a pre-check style screening for everyone (i.e. regular metal detector, shoes on and all items stay in the bag) – this speeds up the process somewhat. What i’ve gathered is that the K-9 is there for the most part except for early morning. But since he/she is also a government employee, schedule and break periods can vary.

  36. Tip: if flying from TBIT, go through security at American’s terminal (T4) and then head to Tom Bradley. You can easily be stuck for an hour at security at TB, whereas at AA’s terminal you’ll breeze through in 15-20 min.

  37. @ Leslie — It depends on how confident you are with airports, honestly, and how comfortable you are with fixing things if they go south. I did TBIT to T3 including claiming and checking a bag on separate reservations, and gate to gate was about 45 minutes with Global Entry and PreCheck, so it’s not impossible.

  38. If you’re arriving international, make sure to avoid using the security line leading directly to the TBIT connector (it doesn’t have a TSApre lane). You’re better off walking to T4 landside and clearing there.

  39. Should be fine as you land realty and the terminal is easy to get through. I find that if you exit tbit and go down to terminal 4 you process security faster rather than doing the tbit rentry.

    Connection under 2 hrs You’ll also get the express connection pass which they prioritize in t4 but not tbit

  40. We’re arriving around 6.00am on a Sunday morning on Delta, with a connecting flight on United at 8.00am. We all have TSA pre. Should we try for the tunnels or go for a bus? Do we have enough time ( I thought we did, but now I’m getting nervous!)

  41. That is wonderfully helpful. Thank you!

    (LAX is still amongst my least favorite airports, but you have just made transiting it that much easier.)

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