So I’m not gonna lie, LAX is not the best airport. Okay, who am I kidding? It’s a terrible airport. It’s old, heavily congested, a pain to transit from one terminal to another and there are no convenient modes of public transportation (such as a railway) to get to/from LAX. Your only options for getting to the airport include buses, shuttles, taxis or driving yourself there and then parking your car in the ghetto. And heaven forbid if there’s a major traffic accident on Sepulveda or Century Blvd. and the entrances to the airport are blocked.
Because of that, most Angelinos know to leave for LAX far in advance of their departure time to account for any traffic issues and then when things don’t go wrong, get stuck there for hours before their flight without much to do. I could go on and on about all the negative aspects of LAX but for all the things that LAX has gotten wrong, they did get one (albeit small) thing right yesterday.
As of September 8, 2014, all passengers with a valid, same-day boarding pass will be able to enter any of the terminals even if their flight is not departing from that terminal. Let me explain. LAX is shaped like a “U.” There are eight “domestic” terminals on the sides and the new Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) is located in the center. In theory, all international flights depart from the TBIT and the other flights depart from the “domestic” terminals. But in reality, international flights depart from the “domestic” gates all the time and thus, international passengers that departed from the “domestic” gates didn’t get to use any of the amenities provided in the TBIT. Why is that? Because LAX TSA had a stupid rule in place that restricted passengers from only accessing terminals for which their flight was departing from.
For example, United Airlines operates out of terminals six, seven and eight. So if you are scheduled to depart on an United Airlines international flight (say, LAX – NRT), then you have to use terminals six, seven or eight. And if you are a premium cabin passenger or are a Star Alliance Gold member, you will have to use the crappy United Clubs in terminals six or seven.
So why does this matter? Well, because Star Alliance just built a beautiful lounge in the newly renovated TBIT. And before yesterday, you weren’t allowed to use the new Star Alliance Lounge in the TBIT unless you were departing from the TBIT. But starting now, you can.
Here’s another example. Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand and Aviaca are all international airlines that should be operating out of the TBIT but don’t. Instead, they operate out of terminal two. And just like United, those premium cabin passengers didn’t have access to the new Star Alliance Lounge but instead, had to use the much smaller Air Canada or Air New Zealand Lounges in terminal two.
This very example just happened to me two weeks ago when I flew Air China first class from LAX to Beijing. Instead of being allowed into the Star Alliance first class lounge, I had to use Air New Zealand’s business class lounge. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a very nice lounge but it didn’t compare to the new Star Lounge at all. But that’s all a moot point now as ticketed passengers are allowed to use any terminal they wish.
So this is a little nugget of good news for Star Alliance Gold members and premium cabin passengers who wish to use the lounges in the other terminals. But the good news doesn’t stop there. Priority Pass members will benefit from this new rule too.
Before yesterday, members could only use any of the contract lounges if they were lucky enough to be departing from those terminals. Now, Priority Pass members can use any of the lounges in any terminal (pursuant to your membership agreement) including the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in terminal two, Virgin America Loft in terminal three, Alaska Airlines Board Room in terminal six, United Clubs in terminals six and seven or even the new Korean Airlines Skyteam Lounge in the TBIT.
Now, there is one small caveat. Depending on which terminal lounge you use and which terminal you depart from, you may have to go through security twice. Yes, I know this is lame. For whatever reason, only a few of the terminals are connected airside (after security). So for example, if you are departing on United Airlines in terminal seven and want to use the Star Alliance Lounge in the TBIT, you will have to clear security to gain access to the TBIT and then once again in terminal seven to get to your boarding gates.
The only terminals that are connected to each other airside (after security) are:
- Terminals two and three
- Terminals five, six, seven and eight.
- And soon, terminal four and TBIT (in construction with no completion date set).
So unless you’re going to and from those gates, you will have to clear security twice. Like I said earlier, it’s only a small thing that they got right. But at least it’s in the right direction.
This information was tweeted out by the official LAX twitter team yesterday and I called them today to confirm the information. I spoke to LAX Spokeswoman Katherine Alverado and she confirmed that TSA approved this new rule to allow passengers to benefit from the new and improved amenities in each terminal such as the TBIT.
Here’s a map of LAX and a list of which airline uses which terminal.
*Disclaimer* According to Ms. Alverado, terminals two and three are connected airside but I don’t see it on this map. I don’t know if this is an old map or if she was wrong. I don’t have any personal knowledge of it. Maybe one of my readers can advise?
I’m also not an oneworld elite member so I don’t know all the lounge entry policies but if you guys qualify, Qantas does have a brand new lounge in the TBIT. And American Airlines operates out of terminal four which is right next to the TBIT.
I hope this information helps and you find it useful. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.