While I usually like to travel “one mile at a time,” the other day I measured a little differently. 😉
A day of plane spotting at LAX TBIT
Prior to my late night Fiji Airways Airbus A350 flight from Los Angeles to Nadi, I decided to spend the day at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). In addition to visiting various lounges and making them my office for the day (stay tuned for lounge reviews!), I mainly just did a lot of walking.
Just how much did I walk? Over 21,000 steps.
What was my motivation for walking that much? For one, it’s nice to get some movement when you’re mainly just sitting around on planes and eating.
But the truth is that Tom Bradly International Terminal just gets me excited in a way that no other airport terminal in the United States can. There’s not a more international airport terminal in the United States — I love the energy of people being there from all over the globe, observing all the passengers and crews, etc. I appreciate that more than ever before, having seen how quickly global travel can come to a standstill due to a pandemic.
On top of that, LAX’s TBIT has huge windows at all gates, so you can see the planes (and everything going on) easily. I just couldn’t help but do the rounds throughout the main part of the terminal, as well as in the new Midfield Satellite Concourse. I also had Flightradar24 open, so that I could see what planes were arriving and departing.
I just love watching planes pull into gates, get catered, have cargo loaded, push back, etc. Even though I’ve done a ton of travel over the years, this is something that never gets old for me.
Below is a small sampling of the planes I saw, from smallest to biggest. There were even some new ones for me that I hadn’t seen before, like the ZIPAIR Boeing 787-8, as well as the ITA Airways Airbus A350-900.
I’d love to hear from OMAAT readers as to which plane below you like the most, and/or which you’d most like to fly. I was surprised by just how gorgeous the ITA A350-900 was in person — I think that might have just been my favorite, at least for the novelty. Though frankly I feel like I’m cheating on the 747-8, which is otherwise the most stunning plane in the sky.
The most photographed thing at LAX TBIT
While I was photographing planes, the planes weren’t what was soliciting the most interest among passengers. Late in the evening I saw a bunch of people running and taking pictures. Was there a celebrity, or something? Nope, instead the four guys below were probably LAX’s hottest attraction of the evening.
Now, it actually seemed like they kind of enjoyed the attention. They had a strut to their walk, they were laughing, and they even posed for pictures with people. A few thoughts/questions:
- Were these passengers or pilots? I would assume passengers, but three of them have bags that almost look like those pilot flight bags (and also four people is what you’d expect for a long haul cockpit crew)
- Presumably they were traveling to Xiamen, China (given the Xiamen Air bag, the strict quarantine there, etc.), and that’s a long flight; if they’re going to have this level of protection, do they eat during the flight, use the restroom, etc., or is this protection only for the terminal?
It’s nice when you can combine stepping with plane spotting, and in my opinion there’s no better place to do that than LAX’s TBIT. I love the huge variety of international airlines and wide body jets, combined with the windows that make it easy to see everything that’s going on. Besides, I needed to get some extra steps in after over indulging in the Qantas First Lounge.
Anyone else just love roaming around terminals and looking at planes? And which of the above planes is your favorite? I vote for the ITA A350-900 and Lufthansa 747-8!
i would say i want to go on the 787
i have been on an LH a380 and LH 747-8 and LH a350
but i would love to fly the LH a380 again because it’s been like 4-5 years
i would love to go on the LH 747-8 and LH a350 again as well but i flew both of those this summer
honestly i love flying on anything anywhere
As someone who is a Planespotter and lives near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) I have watched many of these Airlines taking off and landing Over the years. Tom Bradley International Terminal is great for getting up close for those who are making connections to other Airlines. I agree that ITA Livery, the paint scheme of the Airline, is quite beautiful, and the same with Zip Air, but I do miss the Z on the...
As someone who is a Planespotter and lives near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) I have watched many of these Airlines taking off and landing Over the years. Tom Bradley International Terminal is great for getting up close for those who are making connections to other Airlines. I agree that ITA Livery, the paint scheme of the Airline, is quite beautiful, and the same with Zip Air, but I do miss the Z on the Horizontal Stablizer. I do like the Livery of French Bee.
The nice thing about planespotting at LAX is the multiple places that you are able to spot planes taking off and landing at LAX. You have The Economy Parking Structure, a great place to watch planes taking off and landing on Runways 24 L & R. The Proud Bird is great to watch Airplanes landing on Runway 25 L. There is the Westchester Parkway Bridge where you can see planes taking off and landing on Runways 24 L & R. Dockweiler Beach you can see Airplanes pass over your head usually just after takeoff. Then there is The Park by In-N-Out Burger where Airplanes fly practically directly over your head. Then lastly there is Clutter Park where you overlook LAX on the South providing planes taking off and landing from Runways 25 L & R.
You can also watch some of the operations of LAX on the YouTube Channel Airlines Videos.
love the zipair and the ITA is beautiful paint job
Wow what an amazing experience spending a full day at TBIT. I had the privilege of visiting recently and as an aviation lover its pure heaven. The beauty of this facility is in a class of its own. Spotting at TBIT is amazing!!! and yes ITA airways is my favorite! ITA airways new livery had many critics at first but seeing this bird in person will break you!! its stunning and varies in color depending on sun angle.
Your comment about assuming they are passengers in the white suits shows a lot about you. Actually if you look most of the passengers going to China do not wear such things. There have been news articles, photos, and reports of flight crew wearing such and going through airports before and even some airports banning wearing them. In the photo you posted the luggage they have certainly looks like that of crew and not of...
Your comment about assuming they are passengers in the white suits shows a lot about you. Actually if you look most of the passengers going to China do not wear such things. There have been news articles, photos, and reports of flight crew wearing such and going through airports before and even some airports banning wearing them. In the photo you posted the luggage they have certainly looks like that of crew and not of passengers. It is quite obvious based on some of your observations that you merely go to places for the reviews and blog posts rather than more deeply knowing about somewhere or knowing about what's really going on around you.
Cool pictures of both B747-8i
Also Qantas A380. Booked mid November
The Chinese crews have become a world class joke. Ridiculously or pathetically that apparently they don't think this way.
When I saw steps and plane spotting, I thought you did what I do and take a walk down to In and Out with stops on Sky Way to see take offs from 24L, but I do agree TBIT does have some nice spotting from inside!
No doubt the A350 is gorgeous, but all the 747 variants will always be the most beautiful to me. The 787 is easy on the eye as well.
If you're not flying from TBIT and are time restricted, if connecting at T4/T5 (or technically all the way from T8, but that would be a killer walk), you can at least just walk half-way down the TBIT connector from T4 to get some great views of...
No doubt the A350 is gorgeous, but all the 747 variants will always be the most beautiful to me. The 787 is easy on the eye as well.
If you're not flying from TBIT and are time restricted, if connecting at T4/T5 (or technically all the way from T8, but that would be a killer walk), you can at least just walk half-way down the TBIT connector from T4 to get some great views of the wide bodies at TBIT...the connector has big windows, super quiet and peaceful area to relax.
Regarding your questions: they are most likely Xiamen Airlines' flight crews. Due to the quarantine requirements in mainland China, I believe almost all Chinese airlines flight crews are wearing full-protection PPEs, not just on MF, but also CZ, CA and MU. Not sure about pilots in the cockpit, but at least for flight attendants, they wear those for the entire flight, not just in the terminal.
1 - that's cabin crew in those amazing sealed outfits. I've seen groups of a dozen of them at TBIT.
2 - spending hours at TBIT plane-spotting is exactly as amazing as you describe it. I've got a few years on you, and I guarantee you will still love it a decade from now.
God, the A350 is beautiful.
Back in my airline career days, I was assigned temporary duty at LAX as a ground service employee. I had a great time driving a tug from the cargo facility on the south side of the field, all the way around the terminal complex, past the old Continental Airlines offices and the various hangers and around to the north side to our gates at T2. Gorgeous weather, beautiful airplanes from around the world, it was...
Back in my airline career days, I was assigned temporary duty at LAX as a ground service employee. I had a great time driving a tug from the cargo facility on the south side of the field, all the way around the terminal complex, past the old Continental Airlines offices and the various hangers and around to the north side to our gates at T2. Gorgeous weather, beautiful airplanes from around the world, it was pure joy for this airplane geek. I wasn't happy when I had to return to the office to resume my usual job.
I really enjoy the MSC gates...I go out there when I Haan hour to kill and it's good for getting in my daily ♂️ I've spent several late nights hanging out in South end of TBIT awaiting a midnight departure.
maps.lawa.org says the walk between Gate 210B and Gate 86B is 2.9 km, that's 1.8 miles.
Still the Lufthansa 747-8 for me!
If you were here that long, I would've brought you a hoodie!!!
The A350 is a sleek and sexy plane, and the ITA blue paint make is even more gorgeous. The 747-8 would be next for me. Though hideous looking, the A380 is truly remarkable from an engineering standpoint and pax comfort.
Two questions. How are you tracking your steps, maybe the new Apple Watch? Second, when are you going to fly that beautiful ITA A359 nonstop LAX to FCO and give us a review? I’m hoping to book that ITA flight next spring, would love a review. Enjoy the remainder of your trip.
I flew ITA twice domestically in July and got the new livery and an old Al italia plane. Delicious.
Been spotting quite a few planes I haven’t seen before or in a while in Europe - edelweiss, transavia, frenchbee etc. I too love walking around and snapping pics. I also love the big boards with the destinations (especially in Frankfurt); seeing the different airline names on the cargo bins; and the destinations at the gates (some empty with a flight in a few hours).
The AA 788 at gate 153 was going to ORD correct?
From TBIT? I would have thought not the most likely destination, perhaps?
AA is running domestic flights out of Tom Bradley.
It isn't an international only terminal now, lots of domestic airlines fly out of it as well. The international only terminal is quickly becoming a thing if the past, many airports are getting rid of them in the US.
I understand from pre pandemic that AA had access to up to 5 gates at TBIT, but that was back when they had a bigger long-haul network from LAX. Now they use them because of the construction at T4 and T5. I've flown AA mostly domestic from TBIT, even narrow bodies to Austin, and international from T4.
From a looks perspective, it's 747-8, then 350-1000, then 340-600, then 777-300.
I enjoy the experience of flying inside the A380, but I think it's the ugliest, clunkiest looking plane in the sky. I suppose that's one of the nice things about flying on the A380 -- if you are inside of it then you can't see what it looks like on the outside.
The people in the hazamat suits are indeed Chinese flight crew. Standard attire for Chinese crew for a bit. Here's a related news article from December that has a picture of an Air China team at LAX that looks identical. I don't know what they do during/before/after flights though.
Glad you had fun there. LAX TBIT is a global aviation haven...having one primary international terminal for an airport that serves a metro as large as Los Angeles will do that.
The A350 is certainly the sharpest looking widebody and a pretty frequent visitor to LAX based on your photos.
It’s a rare visit to TBIT that doesn’t include sighting a flight crew covered head to toe in ridiculous plastic.
I know it's not always possible but I'm not a fan of pics without the plane's nose - reminds me of pictures of people from the neck down!
And favorite - 747-8 of course (Lufthansa).
Very american post. That's not that much walking.
Seems like 15 km is a lot of walking in an airport terminal.
Wow Aeromexico flies their 787 to LAX, there must be a big market. I miss the A380
Aeromexico flies their 787s to SFO too. 8x / week iirc.
Nice pick for the background photo - ITA's A350s look sick!