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Flying Delta Through LAX? Read This First

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Delta Air Lines is making several impressive improvements to LAX. Like, rebuilding an entire terminal and constructing a massive Sky Club.

But here’s the rub: all of this takes place at an airport that’s generally passenger un-friendly and outdated. (LAX is finally getting a people mover and less-complicated access to public rail transportation.)

A people mover is being constructed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
LAX is finally making it into the 1980s…

And some temporary fixes are causing headaches for some Delta passengers.

So if you plan to visit LAX and fly Delta, here are a few things you should know.

A panoramic view from the Delta Sky Club at LAX Terminal 2 reveals the Sky Way project construction between T2 and Terminal 3.
What. A. Mess.

Delta Operates Flights from Two Terminals

Delta currently uses Terminal 2 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). Terminal 3 was demolished (hooray!) and is being reconstructed. Baggage check is located at Terminal 2.

The sign indicating the entrance for Delta One and Sky Priority passengers at LAX Terminal 2.

Terminal 2’s gate numbers are in the 20s (i.e. 22, 25B, 28, etc). TBIT’s numbers are in the 100s. (I’ve seen Delta use gates 133, 134, and 135, just to name a few.)

Delta Air Lines shuttle bus from T2 at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
A view from the shuttle bus departure point at T2.

You have a few different options to clear security if your flight departs from TBIT:

  • Go through security in T2 and take the shuttle bus to TBIT.
  • Clear security at TBIT.
  • Use the security checkpoint at Terminal 4 (American Airlines) and walk across the connector bridge to TBIT.

But remember that bags must be checked at Terminal 2.

A view inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT).

Some Domestic Flights Depart from the International Terminal

Here’s where things get ugly for some people.

Several domestic Delta flights depart from the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) each day. These generally are situations when inbound aircraft arrive from foreign airports. For example, my flight to Salt Lake City last week was aboard a 757-200 that flew in from San Jose, Costa Rica.

My parents had the same situation when they recently visited Hawaii.

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-232 (tail number N6705Y) parks at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in California.
This 757-232 departs TBIT gate 133. This was a domestic flight from LAX to Atlanta — but the plane arrived from Mexico City. Terminal 3’s construction can be seen in the background.

So what gets so confusing?

We all know gate numbers are subject to change. My flight to SLC was originally scheduled to depart from gate 28 — but then moved to 133. A flight attendant on my trip did not know about the change nor the required bus ride to TBIT. (She learned the hard way.)

And where it’s really a headache is if you arrive on an international flight.

Sam (a longtime reader of the blog) and his wife flew LAX to Boston. Their flight departed from TBIT. He relayed this story of a couple who experienced the ultimate TBIT-T2-TBIT hell:

One couple on our LAX-BOS flight departing from TBIT just arrived from Sydney, with a newborn.  They deplaned at TBIT, got through customs, got their bags, and found out they had to go to Terminal 2 to check bags, then go back to TBIT. Turns out the BOS flight was right across from the plane they flew over on.

So make sure to give yourself extra time if you’re connecting through LAX (especially if your trip involves an international flight and/or another airline’s terminal).

Several Flights Depart From and Arrive at Hardstands

Given the lack of available gates, Delta is using hardstands (think airstairs) for some flights. Buses board at T2 and deliver passengers to their awaiting aircraft. Travelers on arriving aircraft deplane and board buses to T2.

Passengers board air stairs at a hard stand for a Delta Air Lines flight at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The day I was at LAX, all of the hardstand departures and arrivals involved Delta Connection flights.

This doesn’t appear to be any major inconvenience for most travelers (especially when compared to that poor family arriving from Sydney!). But I’m not sure how passengers requiring wheelchairs are able to board and deplane (I didn’t see any ramps — but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist).

And, come on, airstairs are kind of fun in warm climates, right?

What Are Your Options?

To be honest, these temporary solutions aren’t anything too onerous. Especially if you’re prepared and know about them in advance.

But if you really don’t want to deal with the madness, either take a different airline or use another Delta-served airport in the area:

  • Burbank (BUR)
  • Long Beach (LGB)
  • Orange County-Santa Ana (SNA)
A Delta Connection Embraer 175 operated by SkyWest Airlines is seen at the Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) in October 2019.
Hollywood-Burbank Airport (BUR)

Prices are generally more expensive because these airports feature far, far fewer flights. But depending on where your Los Angeles area travels take you, these airports can make your life a lot easier.

  • BUR is great for Universal Studios, downtown Los Angeles, Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, Pasadena (Rose Bowl events), Hollywood Bowl and other Hollywood area destinations, Burbank, and anything in the San Fernando Valley. (Let’s hear it for the 818! 😉 )
  • LGB and SNA are the closest airports to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Angel Stadium, Honda Center, and nicer beaches than you’ll find in Los Angeles County.

Final Approach

Delta’s current fixes at LAX are because the airline is investing a ton of money improving the joint. Passengers will benefit from the Sky Way project when it’s complete in a couple of years.

Until then, some Delta passengers may deal with some headaches at LAX. Just leave yourself plenty of time to accommodate any terminal changes or other hiccups that pop up.

Featured image: ©iStock.com/Angel Di Bilio

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

3 Comments

  1. for some reason when we came in from MEX the busses were suspended (covid excuse I guess) so had to get all of us (2 and 4 year olds and 5 adults ) with luggage to re check to Term 2… A nightmare will try not to do that again!!Maybe someday LAX will have it together!! But SFO Terminals are still not connected. In SFO with Delta you have to check -in and go thru security in Term 2 but Delta planes take off from the closed part of old term 1..on return you land in old term1 go to 2 for luggage and to get out..Who knows how long it will be???

  2. In March I flew from SJC to LAX and the plane arrived at a hardstand. Delta really packed the shuttle buses full, and it took a long time to drive to T2. When we finally got there, we had to wait for a couple buses to unload before it was our turn. I had not been vaccinated yet and I was not happy, and I almost missed my connection. If I book another trip that connects through LAX I would try to get a long layover.

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