Valley Scene Magazine: LAX International Arrival Chaos: Where’s Mama?

If you’ve ever had trouble finding out where to meet a friend or loved one arriving on an international flight at Los Angeles International Airport, you’re not alone. In addition to little, no or wrong signage, you must also often contend with dull-normal employees misguiding you and having your passengers land at one terminal, only to be taken to another. To help make your next “find mama” adventure a little easier, read on.

Although meeting your international passenger may seem nearly impossible, a little pre-planning wil increases your chances of being there when he or she emerges from the international inspection area.

First of all, make sure the flight is flying in to LAX directly from a foreign airport. If it stops in New York or any other U.S. airport before landing at LAX, it becomes a domestic flight and your job just got a lot easier. Also, if it is coming in from Canada, he or she won’t need to go through federal inspection here in the U.S. (unless it was the Canadian city, Kelowa).

So, If you know your passenger has to go through federal inspection at LAX, you’ll need to know which airline they are flying and their arrival time (duh, huh). Now, let’s go terminal by terminal.  So, let’s do some detective work. LAX has eight terminals. However, Terminal 7 handles arrivals for Terminal 8 and Terminal 1, the Southwest Airlines Terminal, and Terminal 3 have no international arrivals so there’s three you don’t have to worry about. Let’s now go terminal by terminal.

Terminal 7 (United)

Great big United airlines’ international passengers will actually exit through the glass doors next door in Terminal 6. They will do this until 6:30 p.m., which is when the last of the international flights arrive. if the flight is late, and you’re unaware of this little nugget of information, you’ll be waiting at T6 while your non-English speaking grandma or pre-teen niece will be bused over to the Tom Bradly Terminal, which is between Terminal 4 and 3.

Terminal 6 (Alaska and Copa)

Alaska airline’s international  passengers actually exit through T6 as well, But Copa airlines’ passengers need to be met at the international terminal (a.k.a. Tom Bradly International Terminal, a.k.a TBIT, a.k.a. B, a.k.a. 3 and 1/2 since it’s the only terminal without a number) Why can’t Copa use the terminal 6 inspection area? Because airlines hate each other, that’s why.

Terminal 5 (Delta)

Delta is probably the only airline with its own inspection area. Watch out, though, flights arriving after 8 p.m. will again bus the passengers over to TBIT for processing.

Terminal 4 (American)

Ah, American Airlines. Outside you will see International Arrivals proudly displayed. But inside, there is none. And no matter how many times American is asked, they refuse to take the sign down. No one knows why, but it is suspected that they are jealous of Delta having its own inspection area and like to pretend they have one, too. Unfortunately, people coming in to pick up loved ones don’t know that little secret and wait for hours at the wrong location while their loved ones fear the worst as they wait at the next terminal over.

Tom Bradley International Terminal

TBIT houses most of the well known foreign airlines such as Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Having guests land here is the least nerve-wreaking as they have only one exit at the center of the terminal.

Terminal 2

Terminal 2 has an inspection area and it’s open late. It handles all international arrivals for that terminal. In fact, T2 was LAX’s original international terminal.

After all that, the times can change with the seasons and LAX is always changing so your best bet is to arrive early and confirm where your passenger will be arriving with one of the volunteers in the information booth. They have the latest information.

For more information about LAX, visit http://www.lawa.org/welcomeLAX.aspx

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