The travel experts always say that LAX is the worst major airport in not only the US, but world wide. While I agree, some others are also in the “not so great” category. I would place Heathrow, Houston, Kennedy, and Bangkok in the “worst or near worst” category.
Why Bangkok? The domestic airport (the old Don Muang Airport) is all the way across the city from the new, ultra modern international airport, Suvarnabhumi. The minimum connection time must be close to three hours! Compared to that, LAX is a dream!
Heathrow is just a behemoth, though fun airport. Again, connection times, particularly if changing airlines or terminals, pushes 2 hours plus. Fun for shopping, but certainly not the food.
Houston is a nightmare, even when transferring on the same airline. I avoid it at all costs, since the connecting flight is always located at the furthest point from where I land. It is a long ride and walk for even the hardiest traveler.
Kennedy is outdated, the people mover slow, food and beverage expensive, and the lounges sparse. Everything is New York priced, read that as expensive. The people staffing the airport and shops are basically New Yorkers, no style or hospitality. I avoid it like the plague!
The layout at LAX is the first problem, with the big, long rectangular shaped roadway connecting the terminals. Forget about changing terminals or airlines. Signage is awful, staff is indifferent, terminals are old. So, changing planes here is an ordeal. In their defense, some lounges are very nice, like American and Alaska.
Add to this, the LA freeway (there was a Jerry Jeff Walker song) type traffic on the horseshoe driveway. Limiting Uber and taxis is a great idea. No more curbside pick up for ride share or taxis! They built a concrete fortress near Terminal 1 with toilets, wi-fi, and food trucks, an LA institution. Dropoffs will continue at the various terminals.
Will the $14 billion overhaul make this a world class airport? Completion is scheduled for 2023. Fully 30% of the inner curb traffic space will be lost. Even airport officials say it will “get worse before it gets better.” But a connection to LA’s Metro rail will help, along with a driverless people mover (remind you of Disneyland?).
Earlier this year, SFO changed to a central pickup point for taxis and rideshare. But the LAX pickup spot is only convenient from Terminal 1. The furthest terminal (4) will take 18 minutes, unless you have two roller bags and more carry on stuff. The airport shuttle will take 15 minutes, so perhaps getting the exercise is the only plus?
But LAX remains the 4th busiest airport in the world. An 18 minute walk or 15 minute wait for a shuttle is painful, but necessary. The last few times I have changed planes at LAX were smooth, though the wait was generally 2-4 hours after getting through customs and immigration.
I guess LAX is short for laxative.
So, call it LALA-land, Showtime, Smog City, Tinseltown, Freeway City, whatever you want. But do not call LAX a world class airport. Avoid it at all costs!