Travel

How smooth is a transfer through LAX?

  • Last Updated:
  • Jul 31st, 2019 11:01 am
[OP]
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Mar 28, 2005
5945 posts
1015 upvotes
Ontario / Quebec

How smooth is a transfer through LAX?

I need to fly from Ottawa or Montreal to Australia in September, preferably open jaw.

For some reason a lot of flights that come up in a search get routed through LAX instead Vancouver.
I try transferring anywhere in the US now because I have had a number of unpleasant surprises.
Used to be that on just stayed in the transit lounge when transferring flights in the US - no additional security check and no additional US customs, but that seems to have changed.
Last flights I took where I just transferred in the US I ended up having to go through security and sometimes even customs even though I was just heading from Canada to Europe.
So...does anyone have recent experience transferring flights at LAX, is it just the standard transit lounge arrangement or is security and possibly US customs involved as well?

PS: Just about a month ago I transferred through Paris and going it as the same routine there - security check and passport control - almost missed my connecting flight because security in Paris was a mess.
Flying back, also transferring in Paris, also sent us through passport control but we at least bypassed security.
10 replies
Member
Aug 3, 2017
453 posts
291 upvotes
krs wrote: I need to fly from Ottawa or Montreal to Australia in September, preferably open jaw.

For some reason a lot of flights that come up in a search get routed through LAX instead Vancouver.
I try transferring anywhere in the US now because I have had a number of unpleasant surprises.
Used to be that on just stayed in the transit lounge when transferring flights in the US - no additional security check and no additional US customs, but that seems to have changed.
Last flights I took where I just transferred in the US I ended up having to go through security and sometimes even customs even though I was just heading from Canada to Europe.
So...does anyone have recent experience transferring flights at LAX, is it just the standard transit lounge arrangement or is security and possibly US customs involved as well?

PS: Just about a month ago I transferred through Paris and going it as the same routine there - security check and passport control - almost missed my connecting flight because security in Paris was a mess.
Flying back, also transferring in Paris, also sent us through passport control but we at least bypassed security.
Others may have more up to date information than I, but my recollection of LAX is that you will need to change terminals. Any flight from Canada to LAX will pre-clear US customs/immigration at your Canadian departure point. LAX is easy to navigate IMO, but give yourself time to change terminals (they’re all on the same road in a horseshoe so not hard). You can expect both customs and security.
Sr. Member
May 11, 2008
749 posts
301 upvotes
Vancouver
Flew from Heathrow to LAX to Vancouver in June of 2018 and it was a gong show.
Took nearly 3 hrs to go through customs and security and my layover was only supposed to be 2 hrs 40 mins.
Luckily my flight to LAX arrived early and the flight to Vancouver was delayed 45 mins.
Deal Addict
Jan 11, 2004
4924 posts
508 upvotes
Victoria
LAX has the mobile passport app and kiosks now so customs isn't as bad at all. The airport itself is not my favourite but it's fine.
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Penalty Box
Feb 22, 2016
4224 posts
3730 upvotes
If you transit through the USA you will go through US border security (usually in the preclearance area at big Canadian airports like YYZ). This sucks but nowhere as bad as the experience you get when coming back. You will have to get in a crazy long line with all the "aliens" (non-Americans) when you arrive at LAX to again clear US border security (given how many trans-Pacific flights land at LAX...) And they don't give a crap if this means missing your connection home.

This is why I avoid USA transits when going overseas. It's an extra hassle I'd rather not deal with. If you want to make this a habit, get NEXUS so you can use the faster "Global Entry" line instead.

Note that most countries don't make you do this. If you were flying to, say, Moscow via Heathrow you do not have to deal with UK border security unless you actually wanted to leave Heathrow and see London during your layover. The only border security you will deal with will be in Russia.
Last edited by EastGTARedFlagger on Jul 31st, 2019 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Deal Addict
Jan 12, 2005
4436 posts
839 upvotes
Scarborough
EastGTARedFlagger wrote: If you transit through the USA you will go through US border security (usually in the preclearance area at big Canadian airports like YYZ). This sucks but nowhere as bad as the experience you get when coming back. You will have to get in a crazy long ling with all the "aliens" (non-Americans) when you arrive at LAX to again clear US border security (given how many trans-Pacific flights land at LAX...) And they don't give a crap if this means missing your connection home.

This is why I avoid USA transits when going overseas. It's an extra hassle I'd rather not deal with. If you want to make this a habit, get NEXUS so you can use the faster "Global Entry" line instead.

Note that most countries don't make you do this. If you were flying to, say, Moscow via Heathrow you do not have to deal with UK border security unless you actually wanted to leave Heathrow and see London during your layover. The only border security you will deal with will be in Russia.
OP was probably flying to another EU country within the Schengen area, so he/she. has to clear customs in the first port of entry. If he his final destination was off to a non-Schengen area, i.e. Asia or Russia, he/she will not have to clear custom.

source: I fly to Asia on Air France all the time.
Deal Addict
Nov 13, 2013
2286 posts
1088 upvotes
Ottawa
EastGTARedFlagger wrote: If you transit through the USA you will go through US border security (usually in the preclearance area at big Canadian airports like YYZ). This sucks but nowhere as bad as the experience you get when coming back. You will have to get in a crazy long ling with all the "aliens" (non-Americans) when you arrive at LAX to again clear US border security (given how many trans-Pacific flights land at LAX...) And they don't give a crap if this means missing your connection home.

This is why I avoid USA transits when going overseas. It's an extra hassle I'd rather not deal with. If you want to make this a habit, get NEXUS so you can use the faster "Global Entry" line instead.

Note that most countries don't make you do this. If you were flying to, say, Moscow via Heathrow you do not have to deal with UK border security unless you actually wanted to leave Heathrow and see London during your layover. The only border security you will deal with will be in Russia.
Yeah it’s a bit of a hassle but even missing your flight Canada bound is no big deal as they will reroute you to Ottawa. Certainly worthy substantial savings in time or money.
Sr. Member
Oct 3, 2011
583 posts
374 upvotes
OTTAWA
EastGTARedFlagger wrote:
This is why I avoid USA transits when going overseas. It's an extra hassle I'd rather not deal with. If you want to make this a habit, get NEXUS so you can use the faster "Global Entry" line instead.

Note that most countries don't make you do this. If you were flying to, say, Moscow via Heathrow you do not have to deal with UK border security unless you actually wanted to leave Heathrow and see London during your layover. The only border security you will deal with will be in Russia.
actually, last time I went through chicago I didn't have to go through security again.. might have just been because I was flying united/united but I was going ottawa, chicago, hong kong. I did have to go through us customs upon returning from the trip though, tokyo, chicago, ottawa. Also through united/united. It might have been because the first half flights were all the same terminal vs the return which required a terminal change.
Member
Feb 29, 2008
307 posts
94 upvotes
GTA
flew AC to LAX and United to Melbourne from Toronto earlier this year. You do have to change terminals from Air Canada to United but no security checks. I think it took us under 10 minutes from gate to gate but we were rushing as flight out of YYZ was delayed due to freezing rain/de-icing.
[OP]
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Mar 28, 2005
5945 posts
1015 upvotes
Ontario / Quebec
Thanks for the comments everyone.
Seems from Montreal or Ottawa, the only two ways to get to Australia (Brisbane, Melbourne) at reasonable cost is via Vancouver or LAX.
But Premium Economy via LAX seems much less than via Vancouver
Sr. Member
Oct 3, 2011
583 posts
374 upvotes
OTTAWA
just budget in time at LAX, it's like a 5 hour flight to get down there from ottawa and another 12-18 hours to cross the ocean. It's nice to be able to take a break from the airplane environment on a trip like that.

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