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TBIT-T4 Connector at LAX Offers Better Access to Lounges

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The process of transferring between the Tom Bradley International Terminal and an American Airlines domestic flight used to be quite a hassle at LAX. Today, TPG Contributor Kevin Song shows us how the airport’s new connector bridge makes the process so much easier.

Last Thursday, February 25, Los Angeles World Airports opened up the connector bridge between Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) and American Airlines’ Terminal 4. As part of a multi-year $115 million project to make connections easier between the historically segregated terminals at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the new connector now makes it possible to walk between all of the south-side terminals without leaving the air-side secure area.

How far exactly is the TBIT from Terminal 4? Really, really close, actually. Since TBIT sits at the end of the U-shaped terminal layout, the edge of Terminal 4 is just steps away from TBIT. I was able to transit through LAX twice over the weekend and in my experience, the walk now only takes about five minutes. The best part? It leads you straight into the entrance of the fantastic Qantas International First Lounge.

The end of terminal 4 is actually a very short walk to the end of the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
The end of Terminal 4 is actually a very short walk to the end of the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

In particular, Terminal 4 travelers receive the biggest benefit, as American Airlines operates some flights from TBIT — including my flight on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Shanghai — and partners closely with Qantas, which operates some phenomenal lounges in TBIT. Although I was departing from TBIT, I went through security at Terminal 4 to take advantage of the TSA PreCheck lanes there, as TBIT doesn’t have any.

Using the connector is an absolute breeze:

Located just to the right of Terminal 4's security lanes, these escalators take you up to the elevated bridge.
Located just to the right of Terminal 4’s security lanes, these escalators take you up to the elevated bridge.

The escalators that take you up to the connector are just to the right of security, by gate 41.

The first corridor you walk down takes you out of Terminal 4 and around the corner.
The first corridor you walk down takes you out of Terminal 4 and around the corner.

The passageway starts out rather bleak, but quickly brightens up.

Rounding the corner, you can see some pretty great views of both Terminal 4 and TBIT gates.
Rounding the corner, you can see some pretty great views of both Terminal 4 and TBIT gates.

To make walking even easier, there are two moving walkways built into the connector, though in my opinion, it’s not that far and not truly necessary, though always appreciated!

The two moving walkways help make the transit between Terminal 4 and TBIT much easier.
The two moving walkways help make the transit between Terminal 4 and TBIT much easier.

Before long, the connector exits into level 5 of TBIT — one level above the gates and two above the check-in area.

As the connector approaches TBIT, travelers take a sharp left into the terminal.
As the connector approaches TBIT, travelers take a sharp left into the terminal.

As you enter TBIT, you can see a nice view of the check-in counters and security lanes and think to yourself how you just saved half an hour by going through security in Terminal 4 and taking advantage of TSA PreCheck.

The line wasn't too bad at TBIT security at 7am, but it's often very long and without TSA PreCheck.
The line wasn’t too bad at TBIT security at 7am, but it’s often very long and without TSA PreCheck.

Overall, I clocked the walk at just about five minutes, making it fantastically easy to connect between TBIT and T4 and to casually walk over to TBIT and use their fantastic lounges.

Here’s the best part though: At the end of the connector bridge, you’ll exit straight into the lounge level of TBIT, right in front of the amazing Qantas International First Lounge. Nearby, you’ll also find the Oneworld Business Class Lounge (operated by Qantas) and the Korean Air Lounge, which you can access with Priority Pass. This is really important, as the Oneworld lounges in TBIT are much, much nicer than the ones in Terminal 4.

The entrance to the Qantas International First Lounge is right where the TBIT-T4 connector ends — perfect for a more relaxing layover before flying out of either terminal.
The entrance to the Qantas International First Lounge is right where the TBIT-T4 connector ends — perfect for a more relaxing layover before flying out of either terminal.

Oneworld Emerald members, American’s Executive Platinum elites flying internationally, and first class passengers can use the Qantas International First Lounge easily, while the same goes for Oneworld Sapphire members, American’s Platinum elites flying internationally and business class passengers — they can easily use the Oneworld Business Lounge. An even broader population of people can take advantage of Priority Pass and use the Korean Air Lounge in TBIT.

As an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite traveling internationally, I was able to use the Qantas International First Lounge.
As an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite traveling internationally, I was able to use the Qantas International First Lounge.

What’s more, Priority Pass cardholders — such as those with the American Express Platinum Card and the Citi Prestige Card — flying through Terminal 4 now have a fantastically easy way to access the Korean Air Lounge, a good Priority Pass option directly opposite the Qantas International First Lounge.

One of the better Priority Pass domestic lounges, the Korean Air Lounge makes layovers easier for those who don't otherwise have lounge access.
One of the better Priority Pass domestic lounges, the Korean Air Lounge makes layovers easier for those who don’t otherwise have lounge access.

That’s not all though — the remainder of the $115 million project is expected to include:

  • A new in-line checked-baggage-inspection system facility to house new explosive-detection systems. This is currently located in the middle of the ticketing area of T4, so it is expected to reduce passenger congestion in the lobby.
  • Additional security screening checkpoints for arriving international travelers who have cleared federal immigration and customs inspection and need to catch connecting flights at Terminals 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 on the south-side terminals, so that connecting passengers no longer need to join the long standard security line.
  • A new south terminals passenger bus port for travel between TBIT and Terminals 5 through 8.
  • A renovated plaza with open and landscaped areas and public seating to replace the open plaza currently found on the arrivals level between TBIT and T4.

Bottom Line

This connector is absolutely awesome. It’s a very short walk from Terminal 4 to TBIT and absolutely worth walking over to the fantastic lounges and shops in the international terminal even if you don’t have a huge layover.

Before, in order to use the facilities there, you’d have to leave the airport, walk outside and re-enter security in TBIT — a long and tedious process since the shuttle bus between Terminal 4 and TBIT required a boarding pass for a Qantas or American Airlines flight that actually departed from TBIT.

Over the next few weeks, I expect that they’ll educate the airport staff more about this — on my return trip, I actually had a few issues trying to use the connector. I had arrived at a Terminal 4 gate, but had to walk to TBIT to undergo immigration. My plan was to re-clear security at TBIT and take a quick shower at the Qantas International First Lounge before boarding my connecting flight in Terminal 4.

 

You can get some pretty decent views of the tarmac from the connector, although it was quite foggy the day I traveled.
You can get some pretty decent views of the tarmac from the connector, although it was quite foggy the day I traveled.

Unfortunately, the airport staffer (not an airline employee or TSA agent) guarding the security lanes insisted that I could not clear security there, that there was no connector between the two terminals and that I would need to walk outside to Terminal 4. After some convincing — and pointing out the passageway above us — she begrudgingly let me through with the warning that I’d have to come back out after figuring out that it can’t be done and that it wasn’t her fault if I missed my flight.

Needless to say, I had no issues getting to the lounge and back into Terminal 4. The TSA agents at the TBIT security checkpoint even let me know about the brand-new connector and encouraged me to use it.

All in all, the connector is a great plus to American Airlines travelers and even those flying out of the other south-side terminals. With just a five minute walk, you can easily connect to international flights and use the great lounges in TBIT.

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