The Trick To Using The Best Lounges At LAX

Filed Under: Travel

The new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX is hands down the nicest terminal at LAX, and arguably the nicest airport terminal in the US.

Tom Bradley International Terminal LAX

I’ve reviewed the Korean Air/SkyTeam Lounge, Star Alliance Lounge, and recently visited the Qantas/oneworld Lounge at LAX. All three are better than virtually all of the other lounges at LAX.

Star Alliance Lounge LAX

I’ve been asked by quite a few readers whether it’s possible to access a different terminal at LAX than you’re flying out of, presumably to maximize lounge usage. I was under the impression that the answer was “yes,” though hadn’t found it in writing.

Reader Lucas pointed me towards the below Tweet by LAX from September, which suggests that it is now possible to access any terminal at LAX with a same day boarding pass and government issued ID:

Enjoy every terminal amenity even if you’re not flying from that terminal! Have boarding pass for same-day travel & enjoy! #LAX101


Of course the above is specific to TSA policies for the airport, which is totally different than lounge policies.

So what?

Not only does this mean you have access to better shopping/plane spotting/public facilities, but in theory it should also mean you have access to better lounges.

Star Alliance

For example, the access policy for the Star Alliance Lounge LAX is as follows:

First Class boarding pass holders are welcome to use the exclusive First Class Lounge. Business Class, Star Alliance Gold status holders and other eligible guests are welcome to use the impressive main lounge.

So in theory as a United Star Alliance Gold member (for example) traveling on a domestic ticket you should be able to use this lounge, assuming your layover is long enough. You definitely can get past security, and per the rules there’s nothing excluding you from being able to access the lounge. The only restriction on United Star Alliance Gold members is that they can’t use United Clubs on domestic itineraries — the same isn’t true for other Star Alliance clubs:

United Star Alliance Gold customers may only access the United Clubs within the U.S. when traveling in conjunction with a Star Alliance international flight.

Other Star Alliance Gold elite members receive even more clear cut access to the lounge.

Star Alliance Lounge LAX


Oneworld Sapphire & Emerald members should be able to use the oneworld lounge even when flying American, except for those that have status through American and US Airways. That’s because the oneworld lounge access rules have the following exclusion:

American Airlines AAdvantage® members and US Airways Dividend Miles members, regardless of their tier status or class of travel, are not eligible for lounge access when traveling solely on North American flights within or between the U.S., Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

But as a oneworld Sapphire or Emerald member through an airline other than American, you should be able to use the oneworld lounge even when traveling domestically on American out of a different terminal.

oneworld Lounge LAX


SkyTeam Elite Plus members receive lounge access when traveling internationally on SkyTeam. Per the SkyTeam lounge access policy:

SkyTeam Elite Plus members, regardless of their travel class, are allowed access to a SkyTeam lounge at a particular airport if traveling on or connecting to/from a same-day international flight operated by a SkyTeam member airline. Simply present your same-day ticket for an international SkyTeam airline flight and a valid Elite Plus membership card.

All that being said, the Korean Air Lounge is one of the weakest at Tom Bradley International Terminal, so I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to use it. It’s also a Priority Pass lounge, for what it’s worth.

SkyTeam Lounge LAX

A word of caution

You should have no trouble clear security at a different terminal than you’re flying out of, but I can’t guarantee you’ll get lounge access. While the rules are clearly written, keep in mind that sometimes agents might not be trained on them, and they may have never seen someone trying to access the lounge when trying to fly out of a different terminal. So there may be a bit of a learning curve here.

Bottom line

Ultimately I wouldn’t go out of my way to plan a long layover at LAX for the purposes of lounge hopping at Tom Bradley International Terminal. That being said, if you find yourself with a long layover, don’t want to go out, and don’t want to visit In-N-Out, heading over to TBIT might not be a bad idea.

Has anyone ever tried this, and how did it work out?

  1. I actually did just that this past weekend and can confirm hopping terminals is just fine. I arrived on terminal 6 on AA and was flying out of terminal 4 on Alaska, but walked to TBIT and through security and accessed the Korean Air lounge with my Priority Pass. KAL wasn’t a big deal, but I wanted to use their shower, which I wasn’t too impressed with, but it passed the smell test. I did like that the lounge was VERY quiet and pretty empty when I visited.

  2. Also my understanding on OW lounge was the same. I couldn’t access it because I’m AA Platinum and got OW Sapphire via AA and was flying domestically on Alaska. Did I get this right?

  3. Thanks lucky, this will come in handy next month when I fly
    You may want to also say that, be prepared to go through security many times, for the lounge @@
    Not even sure how TSA Pre would work in this case… guess not (I have NEXUS)

    I’ll fly TPE-LAX, land at TBIT, enter USA
    Assuming I have my BP already, enter TBIT again, go through SECURITY, go to *A Lounge
    Exit TBIT, walk to T2 for Air Canada LAX-YYZ, SECURITY again, (visit poor MLL), board

    Sigh, all of these could be avoided if LAX has air-side connections between all terminals, or some terminals

  4. The TSA checkpoint at TBIT is a total cluster, or at least it was the last time I went through a week or two ago. No pre-check line (there were signs, but no actual lanes open), no priority lane (no signs, no lanes), and it’s located in that miserable basement area. I would have to have an EXTREMELY long layover, more than 4+ hours, for it to be worth the hassle of walking or taking that inter-terminal bus, dealing with the checkpoint, fighting to get in, and then reversing / duplicating the entire process at the domestic terminal.

    I’d rather do the In-N-Out run 🙂

    That said, the Star Alliance lounge is incredibly nice.

  5. Yes, forgot this. No TSAPre at TBIT. Had to do the shoes thing, which I hadn’t done in a couple of years. But there was no line on a Friday at around 5:30 p.m., so I didn’t find it to be that much of a hassle other than removing the shoes, which I noticed is incredibly uncomfortable when you’ve gotten used to never doing it anymore!

  6. Lucky,
    I’d argue that this is not the nicest terminal in the US. IAD international terminal is nicer, and so is the new SFO wing, and so is the JFK Jetblue terminal(have you been there ever)? LAX security is the worst in the system hands down as the above reader said and I completely agree. I always route through SFO when I go back home to Korea.

  7. I tried a year and a half ago to use the old Star Alliance lounge at Bradley with my UA LAX-LHR ticket (same-day) and they flat out declined and told me I had to go back to T7 to use the United Lounge and I should have never been allowed through security and me being let in was a violation of laws (blah blah blah). Basically yelled at, quite embarrassingly. Hopefully things have changed since…

  8. Have done this once in July on a UA SYD-LAX (J), LAX-SFO (Y) ticket on A3 *G with a guest as well. Walked over from UA terminal to TBIT, cleared security (“why are you here?” –> “here to check out the new lounge” –> “ok”), and accessed the lounge with no issue. I think the lounge agent only mentioned they don’t do UA announcements in the lounge, but admitted with no problem.

    Granted, we had a 4+ hour layover. Think even for 2-3 hours it wouldn’t be so much worth the hassle. You lose ~40 minutes just walking back and forth and clearing security.

  9. Lax does have airside connections for some terminals. Terminals 4 to 8 are connected (can’t remember if 4 is connected via walkway or airside bus only). Perhaps this is not well advertised.

  10. I can second that.
    I was travelling through LAX in October and I had no trouble using the KAL lounge in TBIT with my priority pass flying on AS and DL. One of the times I was met with confusing looks my the lady in front of security checking boarding passes. I simply said that I wanted to so some shopping in TBIT and had no other issues

  11. @ FreeTravelGuys — Thanks for the data point! And yes, you’re correct. Can’t use the lounge since you’re elite through AA and since you weren’t connecting to a oneworld airline.

  12. @ echino — Probably the Korean Air lounge. That being said, presumably you’re flying Alaska (since American doesn’t fly LAX-YVR), in which case I’d just visit the Board Room.

  13. @ Andrew — Ouch. For what it’s worth, being able to access a different terminal throughout the airport is a fairly new rule, so hopefully things have changed.

  14. The change is nice, but as someone who uses LAX a lot, I have to agree with those who think access to TBIT is of limited value to those not flying out of it. I mean I LOVE checking out new lounges, but once I did that at the new TBIT once, I was good. Ultimately, no matter how nice they are, they are just lounges (we aren’t talking the LH FCT here) and their only real value is to make your trip more relaxing. Given that I honestly can’t see how getting to TBIT, getting through security (unless you are lucky enough to be in a low activity time), getting back to your actual terminal and getting through security again (even with PreCheck) would take less than an hour at minimum, if you have access to a lounge in your departure terminal, going over to TBIT more than once defeats the entire purpose of a lounge.

  15. Lucky,

    I flew out of LAX for a few years while I was based there, so I’m familiar with the airport layout, and don’t disagree with those who think going out of their way to use TBIT isn’t really worth it.

    But I’ve got a QF flight connecting to AA F coming up in April. Since I’m already landing at TBIT, is it worth using the one world lounge there, or should I hoof it over to T4 where I can use the Flagship lounge?

  16. Thanks. Nice. Now I’ll try accessing the UA TBIT lounge with my Aegean Gold Alliance card when taking a $50 RT to Vegas on Spirit. Beats using the Virgin America lounge.

  17. @FreeTravelGuys Re: “I arrived on terminal 6 on AA and was flying out of terminal 4 on Alaska”

    I don’t mean to nit-pick but this could confuse some PAX – I’m pretty sure you have your terminals backwards. AA fly from T4 and Alaska out of T6.

  18. @ Dan — The Flagship Lounge is fairly nice, so after a longhaul I’d probably head straight there rather than going through security twice.

  19. Lucky, glad I could be of help with the LAX tweet. I never doubted you were right in your original answer that it was doable, but felt a screen shot of actual rules might come in handy with an over eager TSO or Agent.

  20. No status of my own (if only I could access my father’s!) but am flying from Auckland via LAX to YVR in July – will I be able to access the Star Alliance Lounge to shower if I have Priority Pass? Flying into TBIT but I believe out of T2 (I’m pretty sure) with a 5 hour layover…

    If not I may go for the two hour layover – is that enough time? Hoping to only have carryon…

  21. Does anyone know when AA will start using TBIT for international flights? I’ve heard ‘later in 2015’. Hard to believe now that we’re at the end of May the date still isn’t known – have a number of LAX-PVGs coming up. I like lounges – but not enough to waste that much time going to TBIT and back.

  22. Can anyone advice us on what alternative would be best for me and my wife if we want a pleasant lounge-stay at LAX (about 5-6 hrs waiting)? We are departing from terminal 4 with American Airlines and we have no existing cards that can help us in to any lounge. As I see it we have two alternatives.
    1. Buy 2, day passes at Admirals Club lounge for a total of 100 USD.
    2. Buy a Standard membership with Priority Pass with a annual fee of 113 USD plus 55 USD per visit (for two person). And then walk to another terminal that let Priority Pass members in.

    Alternative 1 is closest and cheapest but alternative 2 gives us the opportunity to use other airport-lounges as well for 1 year ahead (for 55 USD at the time). We don’t travel very much, maybe 2 or three trips in a year.

    I have read a lot about the difficultes with getting from terminal to terminal at LAX, especially from Terminal 4 to other terminals but I think i have read something about a newly opened tunnel from T4 to T5, its this tunnel open and will it work for us to visit other terminals without have to go through security again once we have passed the security at terminal 4?

    What alternative would you choose and more importantly what lounge (that we can get in to with either day pass or a Priority Pass membership)?

    Any suggestions would be appreciated!

  23. Thanks for your input Lucky! It´s a good deal, but we will not travel anymore in that period of time, we will go straight home to Sweden after this trip and maybe take another trip in January!

  24. Please Help! I am a little confused about lounge access at LAX….

    Our group of six travellers (4 Adults, 2 children aged 3yo and 9 months) are flying out of TBIT this September with Air NZ to AUK. As our departure is ~23:00, we would like to access either the Star Alliance Lounge or Koru Club lounge before departure (if possible).

    What is the most cost effective way to get all of us access to either of these lounges at LAX (preferably Star Alliance in TBIT)?

    Can I purchase/use a Day Pass through the United Club and use it at the Star Alliance Lounge in TBIT instead or will they tell me to go back to United Club in another terminal?

    Are there any Credit Cards that I can apply for that would give me a complimentary pass to SA lounge access at LAX?

    FYI, we have FF membership with Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines, but no status with either.

    Thanks for any assistance!


  25. @ njsephemera — Unfortunately there’s no way to buy a day pass to the Star Alliance lounge, and a United Club pass won’t work there. Your best bet would probably be to just find something near the airport to do, because in my opinion none of the other lounges are worth the cost of a day pass.

  26. Arrived on UA MEL-LAX flight. No problem getting through security, but be mindful that the Star Alliance lounge doesn’t open until 9:15 AM, and KAL opens at 9 AM. Hopefully I’ll be able to get into one of those lounges using *G or priority pass to take a shower.

  27. First of all thank you for this very helpful article. I did a search for an hour trying to find info on this topic and your post was the most informative one I could find.
    Indeed the OW policies say that you can’t access OW lounges if you are an AAdvantage member flying “solely on domestic” but what if I am connecting to a domestic destination but arriving from an international origin? Specifically NRT-LAX-SFO all on AA metal, trying to access Qantas First at TBIT with AA emerald boarding pass to SFO. I noticed that all of the other queries were connecting TO an international destination but what about FROM international origin and TO domestic destination? Shouldn’t that also fall outside of “solely domestic” and still apply? I am flying tomorrow so any advice would be greatly appreciated

  28. Hi Ben,

    I’m travelling on AA first class to KOA (sold as BA I-class fare as part of an international biz ticket) after a stopover in LAX. So, can I access any lounge before departing? An what about the inbound?

    Many thanks


  29. About to fly a regional flight on AA today, but no status. I do have Priority Pass through my Amex Platinum.

    I misjudged traffic and the rental car return line, so I have 3 hours to kill.

    No issue with security in Terminal 3 using a Terminal 4 boarding pass. They assumed I had made a mistake and tried to let me know, but once I said “lounge”, they directed me to the expedited line to save me time. I was through security in ten minutes on a rather busy sunday.

    The front desk woman at the Virgin lounge was nice, and appreciative that I ventured to a different terminal.

    However the lounge was less than I expected. No food except $13 sandwiches, no free liquor, and a bag of chips is $2.

    Free beer but only four selections. Bud light, two local Ales, and a local lager.

    I have never been to a Virgin lounge before, but I am less than impressed with this one. If I was flying out of this terminal and had priority pass, I would go. Not worth the terminal hop, and not worth paying the normal entry rate.

  30. I’m flying to LA with my wife and three children (age 11, 14 & 18). I’m a qantas club member and have a complimentary lounge pass. I know I can get one guest in (wife) and two children under the age of 18. What’s my chances of getting my 18 year old in?

  31. I am arriving at LAX terminal 2 and have a couple of hours to kill. I’m an AA Executive member with Admirals Club access. I also have TSAPre status. However, I’m not departing from LAX, just arriving. Would I be able to access terminal 4 for the club?

  32. Hi Lucky,
    Great article! I’m flying from Sydney, Australia to LA arriving at Terminal B, departing Terminal 5 with a 6 hour layover. I have access with Priority Pass but their help desk tells me I need to be going to a lounge in the terminal i’m departing from. Which is the closest/easiest lounge to go to and how long will I need to get back to the other terminal?
    Thanks in advance 🙂

  33. Laura, not sure if you have travelled yet or not, but the closest Priority Pass lounge to T5 would be Alaska Airlines in T6. After visiting the lounge, you can use an underground walkway to go from T6 to T5 for your flight. The stairs are just outside of the lounge area.

  34. Looks like this was written a while back, so I’m hoping someone still sees this…I’m flying in a few days on Virgin Atlantic from LAX T2 to LHR.
    I will most likely need to be dropped off at the airport 6 hours before my flight.
    I have a united club pass (the one I get annually from the explorer card). Security at T7 ok? United club staff ok with terminal hop?

  35. There is a passageway within security linking all terminals. It can be a little tricky to find and is serpiginous but I walked all the way from terminal 7 to the TBIT.

  36. Hello, I am flying Delta Airline out of LAX tomorrow morning, but would like to use the United Club Lounge or any Priority Pass Lounge. It seems like it would be a nightmare going in and out of United Terminal before boarding Delta flight. Any experience and advice ? Thank you !

  37. Now isn’t the purpose of a lounge to rest up and relax before a flight? Why would someone put through LAX security and line-up again just to access another lounge?

    Good to know the option exists none-the-less. Found your page looking for reviews of United’s new lounge. Anyone tried it?

  38. Access to the TBIT Star Alliance Lounge when flying domestically out of LAX is now easier than ever.

    Note: You must have Star Alliance Gold status with your chosen FF carrier (access not available to United Gold members) and a boarding pass for the same day.

    I flew into TBIT on Air New Zealand today with a connection to a domestic United Airlines flight (T7) from LAX to ORD. As the stopover was very long (8 hours) I decided to check out the TBIT SA Lounge.

    T7 is a fair way from TBIT but it was a nice day and I needed to re-check my luggage and pick up my boarding passes (different itinerary). Just a 15-20 minute walk.

    Check-in is very easy and relaxed at T7 and the security is not nearly as hectic as TBIT or AA at T4.

    I checked out the new United Lounge at T7. It is very well appointed and spacious with great internet access and plenty of power points and USB ports but it lacks the showers that long distance travellers like myself crave. (The food selection was ok and it has a good bar)

    Next stop: TBIT Star Alliance Lounge to test this domestic ticket entry theory.

    No need to clear security again: Once through security at T7 you can easily follow a well signposted labyrinth of tunnels that connect T7, T6, T5 and T4 to TBIT without having to clear security. Once again it was a 15-20 minute walk.

    The lounge is easy to find and you simply present your Star Alliance Gold card and your Star Alliance boarding pass and you are in. No questions were asked, I was simply welcomed to the lounge.

    Better food, larger array of free drinks and the all glorious showers are all available here and I am indulging in a cold bottled beer as I write.

    Also, as you do not need to clear security to get back to T7 all you need to do is allow about an hour to get back to T7 (for United flights). This should give you plenty of time to make your flight. (As a first timer testing this out I am going to leave the TBIT lounge 90 minutes before my flight.)

    Verdict: If you have the time and don’t mind a bit of a walk around LAX this is a great option for the expanded facilities and definitely a good option if you need a shower.

  39. Has anyone flown American, but used the United lounge? I have a couple United Club passes I need to use and I’m flying domestic AA this Friday (econ). I also have Priority Pass which is pretty useless at LAX. It seems rather far, being that United Club is in T7 and AA is T4. But perhaps someone has done this? Also do I need to re-enter security each time? I do have tsa pre for what it’s worth… thanks!

  40. Flying out on ET505 with business tix. My understanding is the carrier departs from T6. Can we, with our Business tix walk over to TBIT to Star Alliance Lounge or will we be denied entry?

  41. You can walk via the underground tunnel to TBIT. Prob about 15 mins walk, but easy. If you are flying a partner of Star Alliance, you’ll be able to use the Lounge with your business ticket. IMO, the star alliance Lounge at TBIT is one of the best lounges I’ve ever visited. Enjoy!

  42. What’s the policy on *A lounge arrivals? Coming in on ANA First with a 6 hour layover. Techincally my boarding pass will be the same day due to the dateline.

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