Is a 1 hour layover enough time at LAX? It is for domestic flights, but…

Is a 1 hour layover enough time at LAX? It is for domestic flights, but…

The fact that you’re reading this probably means that you found a really good deal on a flight with a tight connection in Los Angeles, and curiosity has got the best of you. Is a 1 hour layover enough time in LAX?

Most of the time, as long as you’re not changing from one airline to another, 1 hour is plenty of time for a layover at the Los Angeles International Airport. It’s when you have to switch airlines (and terminals) that things get a little more complicated.

In this post, I’m going to break down every possible connection scenario at LAX, which will help you figure out whether or not a 1 hour layover is possible for your particular situation.

The reason why a 1 hour layover is possible in LAX (most of the time)

Most of the time, domestic to domestic 1 hour layovers are a piece of cake at LAX. The airport is very well organized, and most airlines are grouped together in very close proximity to their partner airlines.

Not only that, half of the airport is connected airside (meaning that you don’t have to go through additional security checkpoints to switch between terminals).

  • Terminals 4, 5, 6, are all connected via underground walkways . There are post-security above-ground walkways to terminals 7, and 8 from Terminal 6. From Terminal 5, you can walk (post-security) to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. These connections make 1 hour layovers between all these terminals possible.
  • Terminals 2 and 3 are connected behind the security checkpoint via a transfer bus. You don’t have to exit either terminal to access it.
  • The Commuter Terminal is connected to Terminal 5 via a transfer bus (post security).

In all three cases, a sub-1 hour layover is usually possible. The only exception would be if you had to check in at the counter for an international flight departing out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. In that case, 1 hour is NOT going to be enough time. If you already have a boarding pass, chances are good that you won’t have to check in at the counter.

underground walkway LAX
The underground walkway connecting terminals 4, 5, and 6 is not pretty (and it feels a bit sketchy when you’re the only one down there), but it’ll save you lots of time. BTW, distracting yourself by counting the squares on the floor is a great way to fend off panic attacks brought on by not being able to see either end from the middle.

They reason why 1 hour layovers are sometimes not possible at LAX

Terminal 1 is an independent structure at LAX. This means that it has its own security checkpoint, and you will need additional time to transfer to any other terminal at LAX.

As long as your flights arrive and depart from this terminal, a 1 hour layover will be easy. If your flight arrives in any other terminal, and you need to get to Terminal 1, a 1 hour is not likely to be enough.

If you’re curious, keep scrolling, and you’ll see a detailed breakdown of the time it takes to move between individual terminals.

What is the minimum layover for domestic flights at LAX?

The minimum layover time for domestic flights at LAX is a bit complicated. As long as you’re not changing terminals, it can be as low as 35 minutes.

However, some airlines occupy multiple terminals at the Los Angeles Airport. For example, American Airlines operates out of terminals 4 and 5. Although both of these terminals are connected airside (past security), you will need additional time. In this instance, 45 minutes would be the absolute minimum.

The important thing to know is that as long as you’re not changing airlines, the probability of having to catch a connecting flight on the other side of the airport is virtually nonexistent. Worst case, you’ll have to walk one terminal over (which keeps domestic to domestic layovers relatively short).

LAX terminals 6 and 7
If it helps to calm your nerves any, I recently had a 35 minute layover at LAX (as you read about in my United 767-300 business class review), and it was a piece of cake. Sure, there may have been some antacids consumed, but…it was easy.

What is the minimum layover for international flights at LAX?

The minimum will connection time that you’ll need for an international flight at LAX is completely dependent on what airline you’re flying.

Most international airlines operate of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. However, there are some that operate from other terminals in order to be in close proximity to their domestic partner airlines.

I’ll get really specific and detailed in a moment, but in general, plan on at least 2 hours if you’re connecting to or from a domestic flight at LAX.

Connecting TO an international flight

The minimum time you’ll need to make a connection from a domestic to an international flight at LAX is 2 hours – as long as you already have a boarding pass. If for some reason you need to check in (to check bags or to fix some sort of ticketing issue) plan for 3 hours just to be safe.

Connecting FROM an international flight

The time needed for connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight at LAX is a lot easier to estimate. This is because all passengers have to go through passport control and customs procedures before passing through security to get back into the terminal.

I wrote an entire guide on how long it takes to go through customs at LAX, but in general, plan on a layover of at least 3 hours if you don’t want to stress yourself out. You could probably do it in 2 hours, but that’s pushing it.

underground walkway connecting the west gates to the east gates of the Tom Bradley International Terminal
The underground walkway connecting the west gates to the east gates of the Tom Bradley International Terminal is nowhere near as sketchy as the underground walkway connecting Terminals 4, 5, and 6. IMHO, this is a much nicer tunnel to have a panic attack in.

A brief overview of the terminal layout at LAX

Despite being one of the biggest (and often one of the most intimidating) airports in the entire US, the layout of the Los Angeles International Airport makes a lot of sense.

LAX is shaped like a giant horseshoe. The Tom Bradley International Terminal is located on the far west end, with the arms (fingers?) of the horseshoe pointing towards the east.

LAX terminal map
I know. The LAX terminal map doesn’t exactly look like the horseshoe that I just described it as, but trust me on this. It’s the most horseshoeiest airport in all the US.

Also, most people don’t realize it, but LAX is a very walkable airport. The only difference compared to other major airports in the US is that you have to walk outside to get from one to the other.

Walking time between all terminals at LAX

LAX is a big airport, and it keeps getting bigger. The good thing is is that there is an inter-terminal tram opening soon that will be running loops around the airport from one terminal to the other. This should drastically shorten transit times. But for now, here is how long it takes to walk from one terminal to another at LAX:

Terminal 1 to:

  • Terminal 2: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 10 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 25 minutes
  • Terminal 6: 30 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 35 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 40 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 35 minutes

Terminal 2 to:

  • Terminal 1: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 5 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 6: 25 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 30 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 35 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 30 minutes

Terminal 3 to:

  • Terminal 1: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 2: 5 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 6: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 25 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 30 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 25 minutes

Tom Bradley International Terminal to:

  • Terminal 1: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 2: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 6: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 25 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 20 minutes

Terminal 4 to:

  • Terminal 1: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 2: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 10 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 6: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 20 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 15 minutes

Terminal 5 to:

  • Terminal 1: 25 minutes
  • Terminal 2: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 15 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 6: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 15 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 10 minutes (via post-security transfer bus)

Terminal 6 to:

  • Terminal 1: 30 minutes
  • Terminal 2: 25 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 20 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 10 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 15 minutes

Terminal 7 to:

  • Terminal 1: 35 minutes
  • Terminal 2: 30 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 25 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 6: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 5 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 20 minutes

Terminal 8 to:

  • Terminal 1: 40 minutes
  • Terminal 2: 35 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 30 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 25 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 6: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 5 minutes
  • Commuter Terminal: 25 minutes

Commuter Terminal to:

  • Terminal 1: 35 minutes
  • Terminal 2: 30 minutes
  • Terminal 3: 25 minutes
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 4: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 5: 10 minutes (via post-security transfer bus)
  • Terminal 6: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 7: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 8: 25 minutes

It’s also worth noting that there is a free shuttle bus that runs loops around the airport from one terminal to the other. I didn’t include that in my time estimate since road traffic around the terminal buildings can get busy at times. If possible, I highly recommend walking.

How long of a layover do you need in LAX for a no-stress connection?

LAX is one of those kind of airports where do you want as much time as possible between flights. It’s very big, and it’s often very crowded.

Domestic to domestic flights

A 2 hour layover would probably seem excessive to anyone connecting from one United, Delta, or American Airlines flight to another at LAX. But for me, I’d much rather have that than a short 45 minute connection. LAX is big, the terminals are crowded, and anything can happen. I like to be ready.

If for whatever reason I have to switch from one side of the airport to the other (it’s extremely rare), 3 hours is what I would want for a no-stress layover.

SANspotter selfie west gates tom Bradley international terminal
Not gonna lie – the 3 1/2 layover I had before my JetBlue Mint Suites flight to JFK was a tad long. It’s not often that I’ll get bored in a airport, but…let’s just say that I was probably making the security crew (who were no doubt watching me on the video cameras) a bit nervous as I was checking things out in the new west gates of the TBIT.

Domestic to international flights

If my international flight connection is departing from the same terminal that I arrive at, the same amount of time that I would want for a domestic connection applies. 2 hours would be perfect.

However, if my international flight is departing out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, I would want 3 hours (at least). Depending on the airline that you’re flying, you may have to check in at the counter (in the main departures hall). In that case, you’re going to have to go through a security checkpoint to get back inside of the terminal. And that can take some time.

International to domestic flights

For a no-stress international to domestic connection at LAX, I would want 3 1/2 hours. Customs and immigration can take a while at LAX, and IMHO, there’s nothing wrong with having too much time and not needing it.

ticketing counters at the Tom Bradley International Terminal LAX
RIP to your 1 hour layover if you have to stand in line here (the ticketing counters at the Tom Bradley International Terminal). Always have a plan B when making tight connections at LAX!

Tips for making short 1 hour layovers at LAX

By far the most important tip that I have for anyone trying to make a one hour layover at LAX is to plan ahead. As I’ve already mentioned, sometimes, 1 hour layovers are super easy. Other times, not so much. It all depends on which airline(s) you’re flying.

Here are some other handy tips that might help:

  • If you need to transfer between terminals 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 (as well as the Tom Bradley International Terminal), take advantage of the airside walkways connecting them all! This saves you the time and hassle of having to go through additional security checkpoints.
  • Many people don’t realize it, but Terminals 2 and 3 are connected behind security via a transfer bus that runs every 10 minutes or so. Utilizing this bus will save you a lot of time (since you won’t have to exit the terminal and go through another security checkpoint).
  • Make every effort to fly the same airline. Having to switch airlines greatly increases the chance of having to change terminals at LAX. Depending on the airlines involved, this could add significant time.
  • Most of the time, it’s faster to walk from one terminal to the other instead of taking the free (pre-security) shuttle bus. Car traffic between all terminals is essentially gridlock at all hours of the day.
  • When it opens, the automated people mover connecting all terminals will surely be the fastest way to move from one side of the airport to the other. However, I still wouldn’t recommend it if all you need to do is transfer between terminals 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (plus the time Bradley International Terminal). The reason is because you’re going to need to have to exit the secure area and then go through another security checkpoint to ride the train.

Comments (2)

  1. Magdalena

    May 16, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      May 17, 2022

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