Airlines and Airports
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Nonstop flights from New York to Los Angeles take about six hours; with the three-hour time change, you can leave JFK by 8 am and be in L.A. by 11 am. Some flights may require a midway stop, making the total excursion between 7½ and 8½ hours. Many of the flights out of Chicago are nonstop with a duration of four hours. Nonstop times are approximately 3 hours from Dallas, and 10 hours from London.
The city's main airport, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is quite busy although flights are generally not delayed due to weather. Because of heavy traffic around the airport (not to mention the city's extended rush hours) and difficult parking, however, you should allow plenty of time prior to scheduled departure or arrival times. Some hotels near LAX offer air-travel perks, such as free shuttles to the airport. There are three other nearby airports that serve L.A. County; they're smaller and have more limited services but are worth investigating when booking flights. For instance, the Long Beach airport is a hub for the low-cost domestic airline jetBlue (which also flies out of Burbank and LAX), while Southwest has a big presence at the Burbank (Bob Hope), Ontario, and Orange County airports.
Plan to arrive at the airport about two hours before your scheduled departure time for domestic flights and 2½ to 3 hours before international flights. You may need to arrive earlier if you're flying from LAX or during peak air-traffic times.
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All Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) departures are from the upper level, and arrivals are on the lower level. LAX is serviced by more than 85 major airlines and is the sixth-largest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic. Make the best of long delays or layovers by heading to Encounter, the intergalactic-theme restaurant and cocktail lounge just across the street from Terminals 1 and 2 on the lower level (reservations are recommended for lunch and dinner; 310/215-5151 www.encounterlax.com).
For longer delays, several hotels are a five-minute walk or shuttle ride away, including Courtyard Marriott and Radisson. They have spa services and restaurants. Ontario International Airport, about 35 mi east of Los Angeles, serves the San Bernardino-Riverside area with a dozen airlines. Burbank's Bob Hope Airport serves the San Fernando Valley with seven airlines. Six airlines use Long Beach Airport. John Wayne/Orange County Airport serves Orange County with 11 airlines, including three commuter carriers.
It's generally easier to navigate the secondary airports than to get through sprawling LAX. Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is closest to downtown L.A., and domestic flights to it can be cheaper than flights to LAX—it's definitely worth checking out. From Long Beach Airport it's equally convenient to go north to central Los Angeles or south to Orange County. Flights to Orange County's John Wayne Airport are often more expensive than those to the other secondary airports.
Bob Hope Airport (2627 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA, 91505. 818/840–8840. www.burbankairport.com.)
John Wayne Airport (18601 Airport Way, Santa Ana, CA, 92707. 949/252–5200. www.ocair.com.)
Long Beach Airport (4100 Donald Douglas Dr., Long Beach, CA, 90808. 562/570–2600. www.lgb.org.)
Los Angeles International Airport (1 World Way, Los Angeles, CA, 90045. 310/646–5252. www.lawa.org.)
LA/Ontario International Airport (E. Airport Dr., Ontario, CA, 91761. 909/937–2700. www.lawa.org/welcomeont.aspx.)
LAX provides free bus service from one terminal to another, and the car-rental companies also have gratis shuttles to their nearby branches. Some hotels, especially those near the airport, provide free airport shuttles for their guests.
Driving. Driving times from LAX to different parts of the city vary considerably: it will take you at least 45 minutes to get downtown, 20 minutes to get to Santa Monica, 30 minutes to Beverly Hills, and 45 minutes to an hour to Van Nuys or Sherman Oaks (the central San Fernando Valley). With traffic, particularly on the 405 freeway, it can take much longer. From Burbank, it's 30 minutes to downtown, 40 minutes to Santa Monica, 45 minutes to Beverly Hills, and 15 minutes to the central San Fernando Valley. The drive from downtown L.A. to the Ontario or Orange County airports takes at least an hour; plan on at least 45 minutes for the drive to Long Beach Airport.
Taxis. If not renting a car, taxis are the most convenient way to get between the city and the airports. It's a $50 flat rate between downtown L.A. and LAX in either direction, plus a $2.50 surcharge. Taxis to and from Ontario Airport run on a meter and can cost up to $60 and $70 depending on traffic; taxis between downtown and Bob Hope Airport are also metered and can cost $40 to $50. From Long Beach Airport to Long Beach hotels, some taxis offer a $24 flat rate; trips to downtown L.A. are metered and cost roughly $65.
Shuttles. For two or three travelers—particularly if you're going a longish distance, for example, to the San Fernando Valley from LAX—shuttle services are economical, $16–$22 per person. However, an individual traveler, depending on the destination, may end up paying more than by cab. Shuttle ride costs are determined by postal codes; fares increase depending on how many postal-code areas you pass. A shuttle ride generally takes longer than a cab ride. These big vans typically circle the airport repeatedly to fill up with passengers. Your travel time will be determined in part by how many other travelers are dropped off before you. At LAX, Prime Time and SuperShuttle allow walk-on shuttle passengers without prior reservations; otherwise, you'll need to make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance for a ride either to or from an airport.
FlyAway buses. In 2006 the Los Angeles World Airports group started a nonstop bus service between Union Station in downtown L.A. and LAX and between Van Nuys, Westwood, now Irvine, and LAX. The cost is $5-$7 ($25 for Irvine). Buses run 24 hours a day: every half hour between 5 am and 1 am, then every hour from downtown, or every 15 minutes between 4:45 am and 9:30 am from Van Nuys. They've got luggage bays on board. If you're on a domestic flight, you can avoid lines at the airport by checking your luggage and getting your boarding pass before getting on the bus. www.lawa.org/flyaway.
Public transportation. If you don't have much to carry, are not in a hurry, and know your destination is near a bus or subway stop, consider taking public transit from LAX into L.A. Free shuttles take passengers from the arrivals levels of each terminal to public transit points; shuttle C will take you to parking lot C and MTA bus connections, while shuttle G goes to the Metro Rail Green Line Aviation station. The Green Line trains run every 15-20 minutes until 1 am. Several bus lines include the airport, but they often don't stick to their schedule. It may take four times as long as it would by car, but the fare is usually $5 or less. From Burbank's airport, meanwhile, you can connect with Metrolink or Amtrak train service for a 20-minute trip to downtown Union Station. The fare is $6, but you may have to wait up to an hour between trains. There's no direct public transportation from the Ontario or Long Beach airports into Los Angeles proper.
SuperShuttle (323/775–6600 or 800/258–3826. www.supershuttle.com.)
Delta and American have the most nonstop and direct flights to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from U.S. cities. JetBlue Airways, a low-fare domestic airline, has daily nonstop flights from LAX to New York and Boston, and between Long Beach and Oakland; Burbank; Sacramento; Seattle; Chicago; Salt Lake City; Las Vegas; New York City; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Fort Lauderdale; it also recently added nonstop flights between Burbank and New York and Las Vegas. Low-fare Southwest Airlines serves the LAX, Ontario, Burbank, and Orange County airports.