Airport review: LAX - Tom Bradley International Terminal, Los Angeles International Airport, US

 

THE FLIGHT

QF12 to Sydney, economy class

THE ARRIVAL

There are multiple options for getting to LAX from around the city by public transport, including dedicated "LAX FlyAway" buses, regular LA buses, and the city's metro system, which drops off at Aviation/LAX Station (which in turn connects to the terminals via a bus). I've opted, however, to arrive the old-fashioned way: by taxi.

THE LOOK

As soon as you spot the iconic "Theme Building", the Jetsons-style flying saucer that balances in a U-shaped space surrounded by LAX's nine terminals, you know you've arrived, and you know you're in for a possibly torrid time. Those nine terminals range from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the impressive new Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), to the painfully old-fashioned likes of terminals 3, 5, and 8. Fortunately, I'm flying out of TBIT.

CHECK-IN

I've checked in online for the night flight to Sydney, and though there's still a reasonable queue for bag-drop, I'm on my way to security in 20 minutes.

SECURITY

This is where things can go seriously wrong at LAX. Even at Tom Bradley, the newest and best equipped terminal, you can expect a reasonable wait to get through the scanners, and it's another 25 minutes until I make it into the airside section.

FOOD AND DRINK

Anyone familiar with LAX's eight other terminals will dance a jig when they see the food on offer in TBIT. It's not just good – it's great. There's Neapolitan-style pizza from 800 Degrees; hipster-friendly burgers from LA chain Umami; wine and tapas from Vino Volo; decent sushi at Chaya. Of course, there's also the likes of Panda Express and KFC.

RETAIL THERAPY

Once again, Tom Bradley delivers where LAX's other terminals do not. Those used to the bizarre paucity of anywhere to spend their money in the rest of the airport will be pleased to find that TBIT offers many places to part with your cash. We're talking electronics stores, high-end fashion, luggage shops, jewellery, and news stands.

PASSING TIME

With a spare few hours you could always just wander the halls of TBIT and enjoy the spaciousness. You could also check out the public artworks, which include the Air Garden installation, and multiple LCD screens showing digital art. The terminal is missing some of the amenities you might now expect to find in a modern airport – publicly accessible showers, a gym, a day spa – but it does have free Wi-Fi. There are also multiple airport hotels.

ONE MORE THING

With three or four hours to spare on your transit, you could always jump in a cab and head to Venice Beach. One of Los Angeles' most interesting and enjoyable areas is only 20 minutes away, meaning there's time to people-watch and grab some food in the sun before heading back in time for the boarding call.

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THE VERDICT

If I was rating LAX as a whole entity, it would be a low, low score. However, this is just TBIT I'm looking at, and it's a good facility. The queues can sometimes be long, but still, this is a terminal with facilities on par with most First-World airports – and that's not something you can say for all US ports.

OUR RATING 3/5

See also: Guide to LAX: no longer airport you need dread getting stuck in

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