Whether you have visited Los Angeles in the past or it's your first time, chances are you'll be flying into the iconic Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), one of the busiest airports in the world. Welcome to the city of Angeles! But how do you reach your intended destination from there? Although LAX transportation myths and legends abound, making an LAX transfer doesn't have to be stressful.
In this guide, we'll map out the physical layout of the airport, help you navigate the terminals and cover everything you need to know about LAX transportation to make your trip to Southern California a pleasant experience.
Los Angeles International Airport, commonly referred to as LAX, is the primary airport serving Los Angeles and the surrounding metropolitan area. LAX was recently ranked as the world's third-busiest airport, and the second busiest in the United States. And no wonder! As the largest and busiest airport on the West Coast, LAX is a major international gateway to the United States.
Join us as we explore this amazing airport in our ultimate guide to LAX transportation. We hope, you'll never stress about LAX again.
Knowing the Lay of La-La-Land
LAX has nine passenger terminals with a total of 146 gates arranged in the shape of the letter U (a horseshoe) that are identified by numbers (T1 - T7) except for Tom Bradley International Terminal, marked as TBIT or "Terminal B." The ninth terminal, the Midfield Satellite Concourse, is now renamed the West Gates, and is an expansion for international flights that can be reached through the Tom Bradley Terminal.
In addition to the public terminals, there are several private jet terminals and lounges, like ACI Jet and the Private Suite Lounge. If you land by private jet, you won’t have to deal with navigating through LAX itself as you will be transported directly to one of the lounges, and you can simply step outside.
The great thing about LAX is that the terminals are packed tightly together, and the U-shaped layout allows for relatively short walks or drives to the other terminals, with pedestrian connectivity to be improved in the coming years. So, if you ever need to move between terminals, you can easily walk, drive or use the terminal shuttles.All the terminals (except for TBIT) are built in a T-shape, with similar parameters, so getting to your gate or getting to your luggage carousel is simple and is always a short walk (usually under 5 minutes). With TBIT, keep in mind that the terminal is the largest and busiest of them all, so always factor in the extra time when scheduling your transportation from LAX.
Arrivals & Departures
Another must-know is the clear distinction between Arrivals and Departures. Arrivals and Baggage Claim is always on ground level at each terminal. Check-in and Departures is always on the upper level at all terminals.
Once you deplane, the next step will be to proceed to the baggage claim carousels (even if you have no checked luggage) as the exits will be located there. Since gates are at the upper level of each terminal (and they are all laid out similarly in a T-shape), you will have to walk a short way through your gate concourse and go down the elevators/escalators to baggage claim. Once there, get your bags from your flight's designated carousel. If you have a private car service booked, you can have your chauffeur meet you at the baggage claims and help escort you to the car.
LAX is a base of operations for upwards of 60 aviation companies, with some of the larger ones occupying entire terminals. Here is a list of the airlines you will find at their respective terminals:
TERMINAL B (TOM BRADLEY INTERNATIONAL/TBIT): Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, Air Premia, Air Tahiti Nui, All Nippon Airways - ANA, Aeromexico, Alaska Airlines, Air Transat, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Avianca Airlines, Breeze Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airlines, Cayman Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern Airlines, Condor Flugdienst, Copa Airlines, Delta Airlines, El Al Israel Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Eva Air, Fiji Airways, Finnair, Flair Airlines, French Bee, Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, ITA Italian Airways, Japan Airlines, JetBlue, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Airlines, LATAM, Level Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Norse, Philippine Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Saudia Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country, Swiss International Air Lines, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, VivaAerobus, Volaris, Xiamen Airlines, Zipair
TERMINAL 1: Air Transat, Allegiant Air, Breeze Airways, Cayman Airways, Condor Flugdienst, Norse, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, VivaAerobus
TERMINAL 2: West Jet, Delta Airlines
TERMINAL 3: Aeromexico, Delta Airlines
TERMINAL 4 American Airlines
TERMINAL 5: Air Canada, American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines
TERMINAL 6: Advanced Air, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, Southern Airways
TERMINAL 7: United Airlines
TERMINAL 8: United Express
If you are going to be staying at LAX for a prolonged duration (a layover or a missed flight) here are some of the many amenities, you can take advantage of:
Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT)
Restaurants: Daily Grill, El Paseo, Euro Coffee and Haagen-Dazs, Hamada Orient Express, Arrivals Cafe, McDonald's, Northside Bar, Marina Bar, Sushi Boy, Cinnabon and Daniels Bistro + Bar
Shops: In Motion, California Market, Crews of California, Via Voyage, Crews of California, Hudson News, Hudson Booksellers, Luggage Store, Hollywood Store, Kidsworks and DFS Group, L.P.
Business Lounges: The Star Alliance Airport Lounge at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The lounge provides a full business suite with services including WiFi, internet stations, scanner, fax and copy machines. It is also possible to hire a private room.
Restaurants: La Brea Bakery, Gordon Biersch Brewery, Home Turf Sports Bar, McDonald's, California Crush, Starbucks, Backlot Deli, Camacho's and Pinkberry
Shops: Kidsworks, Brookstone, Crews of California, See's Candies and Hudson News.
Restaurants: Burger King, Starbucks, La Brea Bakery, Wolfgang Puck Express and L.A. Roadhouse-Route 66l.
Shops: I Love L A, Pacific Coast Traders, Hudson News, Flight Time, Jetway Express and DFS Group, L.P.
Restaurants: Burger King, Java Java, Starbucks and Gladstone's 4 Fish Restaurant.
Shops: Hudson News, Hudson News/ Hudson Booksellers, See's Candies and DFS Group, L.P.
Restaurants: Burger King, Chili's Too, Starbucks, Brioche Doree and On the Border Mexican Grill.
Shops: Jetway Express, Destination LA / LA EDGE, See's Candies, Hudson Booksellers, Hudson News, $10 Boutique and DFS Group, L.P.
Restaurants: California Pizza Kitchen, Creative Croissants, El Cholo Cantina, Euro Coffee and Haagen- Dazs, Malibu Al's and McDonald's.
Shops: Life Is Good and DFS Group, L.P.
Restaurants: Cinnabon, Home Turf Sports Bar, Jody Maroni's, Monet's, A California Deli, Redondo Beach Brewing Co., Ruby's, Starbucks and Java Java.
Shops: Last Stop News Shop, Caterina's, Hudson News/ Hudson Booksellers and Jetway Express.
Restaurants: Karl Strauss Microbrewery, Starbucks, Wolfgang Puck Express, McDonald's, La Brea Bakery and Baja Fresh Express.
Shops: Jetway Booksellers, The Body Shop, ACI, Hudson News, Kidsworks and DFS Group, L.P.
Restaurants: California Pizza Kitchen, Starbucks, L.A. Roadhouse-Route
Shops: Hudson News
Business Services within the Airport
Postal Services: US postal services are not available in any of the nine terminals at Los Angeles LAX Airport. The nearest U.S. Postal Service is at 9029 Airport Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90009.
Cell Phone Rentals: This service is available from the lower level of the TBIT.
Fax/Photocopy Service: This is located at the TBIT at the ICE currency exchange booth.
Wi-Fi: This is available at Los Angeles International Airport via T-Mobile. It costs $6 for the first hour and is 10 cents a minute after that. Alternatively a 24 hour day pass is available for $9.99.
Internet Kiosks: High-speed internet stations are provided by Neptune Networks in all terminals.
The Notable Sites
LAX airport is home to a few landmarks as well - the iconic LAX sign and the distinctive Theme Building. The latter was executed in the Googie style in 1961 and resembles a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs. A restaurant suspended beneath the two arches that form the legs offers a sweeping view of the airport. The building was designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1992, and although it is currently closed, you can expect to see it open to the public again in the near future.
Knowing Your Transportation Options From LAX
If you’ve gotten this far, you now know the main points and are well-equipped to handle LAX. So, imagine you’ve deplaned, gone through the airport and got your bags. Great! Now you just need to make that final connection to your destination, and LAX has a myriad of transportation options for you:
Los Angeles, despite being one of the most influential and powerful cities in the world, has no direct rail service between its major urban centers and the airport. Currently LA Metro rail services operate in close proximity, and an Automated People Mover line, now in the works, which is set to connect stations to the airport once completed later this year in 2024. This light metro line will have six stations connecting Los Angeles Metro Rail at LAX/Metro Transit Center station, a consolidated rental car center, and two intermodal transportation facilities with the airport's central terminal area. Once open travel time will be 10 minutes.
The Metro C Line (Green Line) at Aviation/LAX Station is accessible by PINK LAX shuttle bus from ground level (arrivals and baggage claim) at the terminals. Board the “Metro C Line (Green Line)” Shuttle. Also serviced by C & K Line Link (857) bus departing every 10 minutes. Travel time is 30 minutes.
The Metro K Line (Pink or Crenshaw Line) at Veterans/Westchester Station is accessible by PINK LAX shuttle bus from ground level (arrivals and baggage claim) at the terminals. Board the “Metro K Line (Pink Line)” Shuttle. Also serviced by C & K Line Link (857) bus departing every 10 minutes. Travel time is 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, none of these rail services go to the main urban areas of the city directly. Getting to Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica or Long Beach will require transfers.
Several public transit providers serve LAX airport, including L.A. Metro, Culver City Bus Lines, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, Torrance Transit, and Beach Cities Transit. Passengers can pick up many bus lines from the LAX City Bus Center, located one mile northeast of LAX-It.
Free shuttle bus service is provided between Los Angeles International Airport terminals and the following public transit stations:
- LAX City Bus Center. Passengers going to the LAX City Bus Center should wait at the PINK LAX Shuttle sign on the Lower/Arrivals Level in front of each terminal. Bus service does not operate from 2 A.M.-4 A.M. daily. (Follow pink signs)
- LAX-It. For catching ride share app rides for Uber, Lyft and Opoli. (Follow green signs)
- LAX Economy Parking and Cellphone Lots (Follow pink signs)
LAX Flyaway Bus: The FlyAway non-stop bus service provides transportation between LAX and Union Station and Van Nuys Airport. FlyAway buses drop off passengers on the Upper/Departures Level of each terminal. At LAX, passengers board these buses on the Lower/Arrivals Level in front of each terminal at the FlyAway sign. Each bus is marked with its service location. (Follow blue Flyaway signs). Buses depart every 15-30 minutes.
Private commercial shuttle service companies operate extensively at LAX and there is a myriad of options. Some of the most popular are Prime Time Shuttle and Karmel Shuttle. Booking online is simple, and they offer affordable rates, though the quality of service and customer care has been reported to be hit and miss. Routes go to the most popular destinations in town, are always full and are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Official stops for these may vary.
There are a variety of taxi services that operate at LAX, but there are some keys facts to keep in mind:
- When arriving via taxi - may only drop passengers off at their terminals on the Upper/Departures Level.
- When departing via taxi - may only be picked up at three locations:
- At LAX-It next to Terminal 1
- Inside Parking Structure 3 at the corner of Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B) and Terminal 3
- At the far end of Terminal 7 outside of baggage claim
Ride Share Apps
Lyft, Opoli, and Uber are the authorized providers for ride share app services at LAX. If taking a ride app to LAX you will be dropped off at your terminal on the upper/departures level.
When leaving LAX, however, ride share and taxis can only pick passengers up at the LAX-It lot next to Terminal 1. Visitors can walk or take a free shuttles to get to LAX-It. Shuttles stop at each terminal every 5 minutes at the designated green stops at the inner curb. (Outer island curb is for limos, black cars and all other private vehicles).
Once on your way to the LAX-It lot, you may use your app to schedule your ride. One note on ride share apps in Los Angeles: over the past years, prices have skyrocketed to the point where you might just be better off booking an lax limo service or a private car service. They can even be more affordable than the ride share services and are licensed to pick up and drop off right at the curb at any terminal, so no need for shuttles nor buses!
Another disclaimer when opting for ride share is that those services usually never have children’s car seats available, aren’t greatly reliable and employ drivers who are not vetted to great standards. Limousine and black car services on the other hand offer remedies to these issues.
To get to the rental car locations outside LAX, head to the lower arrivals level located just outside the baggage claim area and look for purple signs to take a shuttle. All in all, there are 10 authorized companies providing shuttle service from the airport: Alamo, Avis, Budget Car, Dollar, Enterprise, Fox, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty.
There are also six other companies that meet customers at the Remote Rental Car Depot at Century and Airport Boulevards. These include ACE Rent a Car, Airport Van Rentals, Allied, Midway and Priceless of Los Angeles.
Limousine & Private Car Service
An iconic way to experience Los Angeles is to start your trip in style by booking a limo or a lax car service and having a professional chauffeur drive you around. Just like in the movies!
There are a number of limo and black car services available providing safe and reliable lax transfers: Executive Car Service LAX, Blacklane, EmpireCLS, ExecuCar just to name a few. You can gift yourself the most comfortable mode of transportation that will take you right where you need to be. You won't have to wonder about your bill while en route, as the prices for a given trip are known in advance and won't change based on the traffic conditions or travel time. Limos can be booked on their respective company websites in advance or over the phone, by text or email.
Other benefits include curbside pick-up and drop-off at the terminals (no need for shuttles or buses!), ability to schedule meet-and-greet at baggage claim for help with bags, complimentary water and luggage assistance, as well as car seats and other perks available on demand.
The LAX-pert Takeaways
Getting to and from LAX doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience. Just look at the incredible diversity of shops, restaurants, amenities, lounges and public services at the terminals. An exceedingly compact and simple airport layout should already put you at ease that no what matter what the situation, a solution to any problem is just a short walk or drive away.
With a plethora of business, entertainment, traveler service and transportation options, LAX is truly an oasis of transportation choices where everyone can find their best fit. Choose from rail, public and private bus, shuttle, taxi, ride share, car rental, limo and private car services.
We hope this guide has been helpful and has put all your LAX-induced anxieties to rest. Arriving at Los Angeles International Airport is just the start of a great adventure, and we hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the city of Angels.