You can never step into the same LAX twice.
Like a river (but louder), the airport is always changing. And July is when summer traffic peaks. On the busiest days of the next few weeks, authorities expect more than 230,000 travelers and 85,000 cars per day, their passages complicated by heavy construction.
Here is a quick rundown on what’s new, what’s coming and what might ease your way, whether you’re flying from LAX this summer or just doing a pickup or drop-off.
Start by taking a deep breath. When J.D. Power measured customer satisfaction at the largest U.S. airports last year, LAX ranked 18th out of 20, surpassing only Newark and Chicago’s O’Hare. (Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport ranked highest.)
But big changes are coming. The information here comes from LAX spokespeople and websites.
The current state of pickups and drop-offs
The most important thing to know is what isn’t happening until 2024. The airport’s biggest change in decades — the unveiling of a long-awaited 2.25-mile-long automated people mover and new rental car center — may substantially reduce traffic around the terminal area. But testing of the new system, which could take a year, had not begun as of late June.
Until the big opening, the airport remains a construction site and the current LAX-it system for ride-share and taxi users remains in place in the lot just east of Terminal 1, as it has been since 2019.
Many travelers don’t realize, however, that there are two taxi stands elsewhere at the airport. One is in Parking Structure 3, convenient to the Tom Bradley International Terminal and Terminal 3. The other at the eastern end of Terminal 7, where United Airlines predominates.
If you’re picking someone up at the airport, there are two cellphone waiting lots you can use until your passenger is curbside. It’s free for up to two hours (and no ride-share or commercial vehicles are allowed). The primary waiting lot is at 96th Street and Alverstone Avenue. There’s also a second lot — opened in May — at 96th Street and Vicksburg Avenue.
Ways to save on parking
Since late 2021, the LAX Economy Parking area has been a 4,232-space structure at 6100 W. 94th St. That’s a 15-minute shuttle-bus ride from the terminals. To park there, drive-up customers pay up to $35 per day. You can save up to 36% by pre-booking online (and it’s free to change or cancel). You an also pre-book parking spots in the terminal-adjacent P1-P7 parking structures.
If you don’t make a reservation in advance, you can check in real time to see how full the airport’s parking areas are.
At the pricey end of the spectrum, valet parking in terminal-adjacent structures is available now at P1, P3, P4 and P7 at $75 a day (with discounted rates as low as $20 daily for pre-booking).
Prices at off-airport facilities like Wally Park and the Parking Lot can be lower or higher, depending on amenities and demand.
What’s new in the terminals, including restaurants
Waiting for food while precious minutes tick away is never fun. But you can go online in advance to order food for pickup from LAX eateries. The LAXordernow.com program now features 40 restaurants, including the Border Grill (Bradley International Terminal), Barney’s Beanery (Terminal 2), Campanile (Terminal 4) and Monsieur Marcel (Terminal 5).
In Terminals 2 and 3, Delta territory, the carrier has expanded to 25 gates from 16, with two more expected to open, timetable uncertain.
Since last summer, Terminal 3 has opened a new “West Headhouse” — passenger check-in and ticketing area, that is — with self-service kiosks for checking bags and printing boarding pass. There’s a new Hudson Nonstop store near Gate 36 (no cashier; you scan your own credit card).
For those booking the airline’s fanciest seat category, Delta One, the carrier has added a lower-level TSA screening lane. Delta has also revived a ’60s era passenger tunnel to baggage claim, complete with groovy colored mosaic tiles. A new after-security connector bridge from Terminal 3 to the Bradley International Terminals is in the works too (completion date unknown).
Also in Terminal 3 are new food and drink options since fall: Native by Nyesha near Gate 33A; Alfred coffee, beer, wine and cocktails near Gate 32; Homeboy sandwiches and bakery items near Gate 33; and Jamba: juices and such near Gate 33. Chicken + Beer (co-owned by rapper Ludacris and featuring chicken, waffles and comfort food) is expected to open any day.
In Terminal 4: American Airlines’ Terminal 4.5 Core opened in November between terminals 4 and 5, aiming to ease passengers’ foot traffic on four levels with pre-security escalators, elevators and stairs. In 2024, American expects to open a new headhouse with modernized ticketing and baggage claim carousels and new escalators and elevators.
In the Tom Bradley International Terminal, airport officials said they expect six new concessions, including retail and restaurants, to open in the next several months.
In Terminals 7 and 8, home to United and United Express flights, LAX is testing a pilot program, LAX Fast Lane, that allows travelers to pre-book a time to pass through the TSA checkpoint. You can book a time (a 15-minute window, actually) up to three days ahead, or after arriving at the airport for departure, then use a QR code in passing through. The program doesn’t have a TSA Precheck or CLEAR component, so if you’ve already got Precheck or CLEAR status, you’ll lose that advantage going through the LAX Fast Lane.
Other tips for a smoother airport experience
Beyond the advice above, keep a few evergreen tips in mind: Any LAX experience is usually easier if you’ve checked in for your flight in advance and limited your packing to a carry-on, so you don’t have to check luggage. Also, don’t try to pass through TSA with any containers holding more than 3.4 ounces (100ml) of liquid.
If you take a FlyAway bus to or from Union Station or Van Nuys ($9.75 per adult for either one, first-come, first-serve), your airport trip might take longer but you may dodge the hassles and expenses that can come with parking, ride shares or taxis.