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 meant 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
A double-decker roadway connects all the terminals, 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 is accessible 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 sky bridge 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.
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.
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 into 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.
If you’re continuing to T6, 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.
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.
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 through 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?