These new $1.7 billion LAX gates are a nightmare to get to


My entire life, I have always preferred Hawaiian Airlines when I fly to and from Hawaii. They play Hawaiian music on their video monitors, their safety announcements include olelo Hawaii (Hawaiian language), and they serve guava juice and Hawaii snacks, so getting on the plane already feels like I’m halfway there.

But flying out of Los Angeles International Airport with Hawaiian Airlines has become a hassle ever since it moved to the West Gates at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B) in October 2021. It has even prompted me to look at other carriers, which I have never considered before.

The walk to and from the West Gates is a disorienting maze of corridors over multiple floors with escalators, elevators, stairs and a moving walkway through an underground passage. Hawaiian Airlines advises to allow “15 to 20 minutes of walking time” on its website, but it’s clear some passengers miss that message.

Having done this walk a few times now, I can tell you it’s a brisk 15 to 20 minutes — and could take even longer depending on your health, physical ability, or even how many bags you are carrying. And if you’re running late, this could turn into a long and tiring run.

I did not receive a warning about the distance when I checked in, nor did the flight attendants inform passengers about the walk when we arrived back at LAX.

For Hawaiian Airlines flights out of Los Angeles International Airport, travelers must walk from Terminal B, on the right, to the West Gates, on the left.

Screenshot via

On one night time arrival, I saw some people — especially those who were older — stop halfway to the baggage claim, struggling to continue, their faces clearly distressed. Though the airport does offer courtesy shuttles for part of the journey on a first-come, first-served basis, none were operating at this hour. I wish these people had been better informed so a wheelchair could have been ordered for them in advance.

When we finally reached Terminal B, a lone airport worker smiled, knowingly, and pointed the way for us to continue. “Keep going,” he said. Around the corner, we still had flights of stairs and an elevator down to the first floor baggage claim to go. 

At this point, I could tell by others’ comments and faces that I wasn’t the only one reconsidering flying Hawaiian at LAX again. The move to these gates, however, was not the airline’s doing.

“Our relocation to Terminal B was required by LAWA [Los Angeles World Airports] as part of a broader airport capital program,” Hawaiian Airlines said in an email to SFGATE. This is the third time Hawaiian Airlines has moved terminals at LAX since it began its service there in 1985. 

“We have no immediate plans to relocate to another terminal. That said, we always seek opportunities for access to airport facilities that provide the highest level of guest experience and operational efficiencies,” the airline continued.

The West Gates at the Los Angeles International Airport at the Tom Bradley International Terminal on April 13, 2021. 

The West Gates at the Los Angeles International Airport at the Tom Bradley International Terminal on April 13, 2021. 

Joshua Sudock/LAWA

The Los Angeles International Airport invested $1.73 billion to build the West Gates at Terminal B. Opened in May 2021, its five levels hold 15 gates and many upgrades and amenities, such as wireless internet, touchscreen kiosks, modernized boarding systems, nursing rooms and children’s play areas. It also has 14 shops and 13 food options. The facility has won awards since its opening.

“Hawaiian was moved from Terminal 5 because there was not enough operating space for them there given the passenger volumes, the other airlines operating in T5 and the common-use status of Hawaiian,” LAWA responded in an email to SFGATE. “We worked with Hawaiian on the best check-in location, which the airline opted to take place in Tom Bradley.”

Terminal B is used for domestic and international flights, so Hawaiian is not the only airline that flies out of the West Gates. Other travelers have to make the trek as well.

“There are at least 15 airlines operating from the West Gates at Tom Bradley. The distance from the curb to the gates is similar to several other large airports,” LAWA responded to SFGATE in an email. “The longest possible walk from the curb of the terminal to the farthest gate is 1,300 steps from Tom Bradley International check-in hall to gate 210 in the West Gates at Tom Bradley.”

The underground tunnel between Terminal B to and from the West Gates at the Los Angeles International Airport's Tom Bradley International Terminal on April 13, 2021. 

The underground tunnel between Terminal B to and from the West Gates at the Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal on April 13, 2021. 

Joshua Sudock/LAWA

I did not count the steps myself, but 1,300, or about a half-mile, feels far less than the amount of effort it took to get to and from the gate and to the baggage claim. Maybe it’s due to the number of floors or seemingly endless corridors. But the collective faces of others I’ve seen hiking LAX’s halls should be enough to indicate that there’s a greater need for more advanced warnings and better assistance for the people traveling in and out of the West Gates of Terminal B.

Unlike my other positive experiences with Hawaiian Airlines at other airports, flying into and out of LAX no longer feels like a warm welcome but rather an obstacle course that must be passed before picking up luggage or boarding a flight to Hawaii.

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