Review: China Southern Los Angeles Airport First Class Check-In

I arrived at LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal at around 5:30PM, a full five hours before departure. I had to check out of my hotel at 4PM and could only kill so much time in the lobby before leaving.

Tom Bradley International Terminal exterior

Tom Bradley International Terminal exterior

Not surprisingly check-in wasn’t open till 6PM, so it actually wasn’t too bad of a wait.

Tom Bradley International Terminal check-in hall

Tom Bradley International Terminal check-in hall

There were several dozen China Southern passengers already waiting around the check-in area as they were setting up the signage for the lines.

China Southern check-in queue

I’m not going to lie, I love just hanging out at TBIT, even if it’s just in the check-in area. It has to be one of the most exciting terminals in the world in terms of destinations served nonstop. I mean, in the course of an evening you have flights leaving to Munich, Istanbul, Zurich, London, Manila, Nadi, Hong Kong, Sydney, Guangzhou, Taipei, Melbourne, Seoul, and Tokyo.

While I’ve flown well over three million miles, I gaze at departure boards the same now as I did when I was five. Travel and aviation is just a miracle…

Tom Bradley International Terminal departures board

China Southern check-in before opening

At around 5:50PM they started creating queues to separate passengers. I got in the first class line, and was quickly approached by an agent that said “first class?” I said “yes.” She said “you mean business class, yes?” I said “no, first class.”

China Southern first class check-in signage

China Southern first class check-in queue

China Southern A380 seatmap

So she motioned for me to get in the first class queue, and then a couple of minutes later another agent with the names of first class passengers on a clipboard came over and asked me “are you Mr. Chow, Zhou, or Schlappig?”

I tried to control my laughter and resisted the urge to recite a Mr. Chow line from “The Hangover,” and after I smirked and raised my eyebrow she said “I’m going to assume you’re Schlappig.”

China Southern first class check-in carpet

Check-in was efficient, though there was a bit of confusion over my transit without visa in Guangzhou. I was staying in Guangzhou for around 48 hours and didn’t have a visa, so they needed the name and phone number of the address I was staying at. Soon enough my boarding pass was issued.

China Southern first class check-in

The agent explained that China Southern offers a “101 escort service” (whatever that means) through security, whereby they would bring me to the lounge.

Now in the past I’ve had mixed luck when it comes to escort services in the US. When I flew Air France out of LAX I had the most badass, baller escort ever. She cut everyone, brought me to the crew line, and then proceeded to cut the 25 person Singapore A380 crew without so much as acknowledging their presence.

While perhaps a bit “rough around the edges,” at the very least that’s a useful escort service, as it saved me a bunch of time.

So I hoped it would be similar in this case, and took them up on the offer. It took them a couple of minutes to find an agent that had the time to do it, but eventually a really nice Chinese girl escorted me. She was from Guangzhou and just started with China Southern a couple of months ago and eventually wanted to become a flight attendant, so her story was pretty interesting.

The only issue is that the “escort” service consisted of her walking next to me at a snail’s pace and talking all the way to the lounge. There were no line cuts, and for that matter she really wasn’t very assertive, to the point that we were even being cut by other passengers.

Tom Bradley International Terminal

She then walked me to the brand new Korean Air Lounge, which was still closed, as it apparently only opens at 7PM. Fortunately it was 6:45PM at this point, so I just roamed the gorgeous new Tom Bradley International Terminal for 15 minutes till the lounge opened.

So despite the entertainment at check-in, I do wish they’d clarify whether the escort service is actually useful, or more like a companionship-esque escort service. Then again, at this point in my life I guess I’m not really in a position to turn down either…

Filed Under: China Southern, Travel
  1. Well it can be useful, for some Mr Chow or Zhou or whatever who don’t speak English or have never been to LAX…

  2. When you look at the departures board, do you think about all the different varieties of toilets you can photograph?

  3. At that time of the day the far security checkpoint is quicker than the nearest security checkpoint.

    The old skyteam lounge used to open about 1845. I’m not sure about the new one.

  4. “First class? You mean business class, yes?” It amuses me when they underestimate you.

    You do set us up with some perfect lines to comment on such as the one Patrick referred to.

    I don’t know how you’ll improve on the preview story you gave us about the next leg. I had friends laughing out loud as I recapped it over drinks. 😉

  5. We’d be hearing about how racist the agent was if she assumed you weren’t Mr. Chow or Zhou.

    And there are only 3 F passengers. Odds are you aren’t one of them. Simple math.

  6. @ The Global Traveller — We used the far checkpoint and the queue really wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. The checkpoint doesn’t really get crazy busy again till later in the evening.

  7. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Cracks me up that they named a terminal after a quarterback who doesn’t even play in LA! Crazy Americans.

  8. I like reading your reviews but the “I’m not going to lie” verbal graffiti should go. By using that expression, everything else you say that doesn’t have that qualifier is a lie!?

  9. @Eric: The expression is used to introduce a notion that would typically be considered unbelievable. Most people don’t prefer to hang out at airports, especially those without lounge access.

  10. @Pat Bucher,

    You should see the looks I get when people over hear me talking on the phone saying stuff like “Yeah, I don’t know when I’ll be there, I have a layover at the Atlanta Hartsfield Michael Jackson International airport…”


  11. Why do you always smirk at people? I’ve noticed that in a few of your posts now. Surely there are politer ways of dealing with people than coming across as arrogant and self-important, even when you’re in the right.

  12. @Daniel, if you’re not happy with Lucky’s blog, why don’t you go back to where you crawl out from, huh? Lucky has tons of fans, one fewer low life hater won’t make a difference.

  13. @peter – I suspect it had less to do with them “underestimating” him than with the fact that there were probably 10x more business class passengers than first class passengers.

  14. @ Pat Bucher – Tom Bradley is also (coincidentally) the name of a former American politician and mayor of Los Angeles.

    @ Daniel – Everyone smirks. Even two year olds. (Hey, who created internet memes?)

  15. @ Pat Bucher There is no, and never has been, an NFL quarterback (I’m assuming you were talking about American professional football) named Tom Bradley. Crazy Pat Bucher…

  16. @Daniel, if that’s your best comeback, you must be so dim, if you had another brain, it would be lonely.

    So let me spell it out s-l-o-w-l-y for you this time… I was telling a jerk/troll like you to GET LOST!

  17. I guess this one-on-one escort is for travelers not very familiar with the airport and the location of the lounge.

    IMHO, a more appropriate way for a check-in agent to find out who you were would’ve been to just ask for your name. It’d also avoid revealing the names of other F pax.

  18. I love checking out people and the flight departure board at TBT, as well.
    Call me crazy, but I kinda miss the “old” departures board that would flip the letters over, making a pretty loud noise every time it “refreshed.”

  19. @GoAway, LOL. Impressive debating skills there. Your parents should be so proud THIS is the best their combined genetic material could offer the world.

  20. @ Daniel @GoAway – Break it up, will you? I’m just a reader but scrolling through comments is becoming harder and harder.

  21. This is an airline that tries but does not always execute well. Still, I give them very high marks for trying — I was on a flight Beijing to Guangzhou and asked for some tape. The flight attendant asked why and I said the end of the zipper on a small bag had come loose. The flight attendant then asked for it and five minutes later came back with the bag with the zipper end sewed back on – she did it herself. The example of the escort service is in many respects similar. The staff really want to succeed — when I see some of the things management has done like the reaction to the post on LAX-CAN, I wonder whether management needs to change.

  22. Hello Mr. Ben! I don’t know if you remember me, but I was one of the agents that spoke with you when you flew the HU 7924 flight to CSX. I hope all is going well for you. Too bad I was in the arrivals area when you were checking in for CZ 328, so maybe I’ll see you arriving instead this time.
    Regarding the escort through TSA, we use to cut the line to the very front of the scanner, but due to recent TSA regulations, we’re only allowed to do it case-by-case. Such as flight is about to departure, agent escorting you has an escort icon, or if the TSA Officer allows us to cut the line up to a certain point. Since we have a lot of Chinese passengers, escorts is now primarily helpful for them because of language barriers and such to get through TSA and to the lounge smoothly.

    I hope to see you soon! Have a safe trip and a pleasant flight.

  23. Not sure if you covered it in another post, but there is a TSA security screening in the International Arrivals area at TBIT that is always empty. No line at all. I always use it in my travels overseas

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *