The insufferable misery called “LAX Terminal 3” has gotten worse. Inept security guards and poor signage prevent some passengers from even entering the terminal.
This past Friday, I posted the new Terminal 2 location for the Delta inter-terminal shuttle bus — which could be your best friend after reading this.
The LAX Terminal 3 Debacle
Delta’s Sky Way at LAX project is in full swing. A new Sky Club with Sky Deck is on the way. There will be more room, more gates, and more flights. Things will be nice. Hopefully.
But all that’s at least a couple of years away.
A number of Delta flights use of Terminal 3 — which is a disaster. (If there’s something good about T3 — aside from the great Sky Club staffs in the main lounge and annex — please share it in the comment section.) Waiting at the gate level of this third world country bus station is enough punishment.
And that’s if you’re fortunate enough to even get inside.
The Temporary T3 Layout
During construction, check-in and bag check is located on the T3 departure level. But passengers then have to go downstairs to the baggage claim/arrivals level. Why? Because that’s where TSA (including PreCheck) and CLEAR are located, of course, during Delta’s T2 and T3 (seemingly endless) renovation.
There are stairs and escalators at random points throughout the terminal. Or you can take the elevator. “The” as in “one.” My family and I have waited ten minutes for this elevator to have enough room for three passengers. (SPOILER ALERT: little children hate waiting more than ten seconds for anything.) The lift is often commandeered by wheelchair operators, security, and other staff.
After that treat, you walk about two blocks down an early 1970s relic of a hallway to an escalator or elevator back up to the gate level.
“Such mishegoss!” as my wife’s family says.
Now there’s another wrinkle — and some workarounds — for your travel consideration.
”Do Not Enter,” Door Dragons, and Required Elevator Rides
Let me preface this by stating I try to be especially kind and polite to airport, hotel, and travel industry people. They deal with a lot of tired, angry, lost, and/or intellectually-challenged and sometimes even inebriated people every day. (Trust me — I worked in a hotel for two years.)
The day below really tested me.
When I flew to Austin to visit Delta’s newest Sky Club, my LAX-AUS flight departed from T3. (Originally, it was T2 — but then changed to T3. Always a gut punch.)
I had no checked luggage and went directly to the T3 baggage claim/arrivals level to clear security. I’ve used this entry several times before. (In fact, my wife, daughter, and I did four days prior.)
However, a sign outside the door that day read “Exit Only. Do Not Enter.”
So, I walked to the next door, which funnels out to baggage carousels and tried entering that way.
Naturally, “Exit Only. Do Not Enter” signs were here, too.
I walked back to my original intended entrance and followed a flight attendant through the door, hoping to piggyback with her. I’m a regular practitioner of the “If You Look Like You Know Where You’re Going, People Won’t Stop You” theory. And it usually works.
Except for that day.
A representative from G2 Secure Staff — the service LAX hires to guard doors and direct human traffic within terminals — stopped me.
I must say most of these folks have the personality and charm of an aggravated cobra. Yes, they must be vigilant of people around the terminal — but these door dragons have a “DYKWITIA?” attitude. I’ve seen and personally experienced their unpleasant demeanors several times. They’re not equipped to interact with stressed out, confused passengers. Visitors probably leave with an even worse impression of Angelenos.
Here’s the exchange I had with the person guarding the outside door.
G2 Rep: “Sir, sir, sir! Where are you going?”
Me: “To security, ma’am.”
G2 Rep: “No, no. You can’t enter here.”
Me: “Oh. Where can I enter?”
G2 Rep: “You have to enter through the other side.”
Me: “I tried but the signs over there say ‘Exit Only. Do Not Enter.’”
G2 Rep: “Yes, but you have to enter over there.”
Me: “I can’t.”
G2 Rep: “Why not?”
Me: “Because the signs say it’s an ‘Exit Only.”
G2 Rep: “But that’s where you enter.”
What? Was she trying to re-create a famous Abbott & Costello routine but with an airport twist?
Me: “But the signs say — “
G2 Rep: “Okay, sir, then you must take the elevator back up to the next level and take it back down.”
Yet I already stood near the elevator. And despite my holding a valid, same-day boarding pass, she wanted me to go upstairs and take the elevator back down — so she could see me with the other departing passengers.
Me: “What? That makes no sense.”
G2 Rep: “Yes. Take the elevator now.”
At this point, I decided to cut my losses, go to Terminal 2, and take the inter-terminal shuttle. It was a battle of common sense; as usual, the LAX G2 Secure Staff door dragons were unarmed. I began walking away.
Me: “Forget it. You guys are so screwed up here. I’ll walk back to T2 and take the bus.”
G2 Rep: “No! Sir! You must take the elevator!”
I shook my head and strolled toward T2.
G2 Rep: “Yes! GET BACK HERE! YOU MUST RIDE THE ELEVATOR!”
During my encounter with this woman, I saw a few people in security lines. How did they get in? Abide by the door dragon’s elevator edict? Grease her palm? Sneak in?
During the Delta SkyWay construction process, there are three workarounds Delta flyers can consider.
- Take the Inter-Terminal Shuttle Bus
- Fly BUR, ONT, SNA, or LGB
- Suck it Up and Fly Another Airline
Take the Inter-Terminal Shuttle Bus
If you’re stuck going out of LAX, here is my preferred method.
Check your bags at whatever terminal the Fly Delta app instructs. OR if you’re SkyPriority (if you read this blog, you probably are or will be before your next LAX trip) use the SkyPriority baggage check at the beginning (east end) of T2.
Use the T2 checkpoint to clear security. (Which is even faster if you have TSA PreCheck and CLEAR).
Take the inter-terminal shuttle to T3.
Yes, it means going up, going down, and going back up again. But the scenery is better and there’s far less tomfoolery.
Use Different Airports
What a great excuse to try smaller, less congested airports! (Though you’ll probably pay a bit more)
Delta serves all of the Los Angeles area’s passenger terminals:
Good airport for downtown Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium, STAPLES Center, Universal Studios, Hollywood, Burbank, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and the San Fernando Valley in general. BUR adds two daily ATL routes starting July 8.
Despite being in “Ontario, CA,” I assure you it’s “Ontario, California,” not “Ontario, Canada.” 😉
John Wayne Airport, Orange County (SNA)
SNA is the closest airport to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Angels Stadium, Honda Center, Laguna Beach, and Dana Point.
Long Beach (LGB)
LGB is a decent alternative to SNA.
Suck it Up and Fly Another Airline
I admit it. Even though Delta is the best airline for West Coast travelers 😉 , I can — and do — stomach the occasional short hop on other airlines.
Heck, Southwest flights from the LA area to Las Vegas — especially on a Friday or Saturday — can be downright fun. (Southwest flies from BUR, ONT, SNA, and LGB — so you can completely avoid LAX, if you want)
Have You Been Ordered to Take the Elevator?
What have been your experiences trying to enter LAX T3? Have the door dragons breathed fire at you? Share in the comment section below your experiences! – Chris