Passing Through Los Angeles

Passing Through Los Angeles
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Image courtesy: brewbooks
 
This post is part of Project Pacific Circle, a journey of more than 25,000 miles from Orlando to Los Angeles, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

Along the way, I’m flying on some of the world’s best airlines and sharing my thoughts on the ground and in the air. The cash cost for the airfare alone would have been well more than $17,000. Using miles and points, however, I knocked the cost down to around $500. Learn how to travel like I do with PointsAway: The Definitive Guide To Free Flights & Nights.

Admiral’s Club – LAX

After arriving from my flight on American from Orlando, I first visited the Admiral’s Club located near my arrival gate. The lounge was large and nicely designed, with light wood paneling rounding up toward a high ceiling and floor to ceiling windows affording a view of a tarmac largely torn up at the moment due to ongoing construction. However, the lounge wasn’t much of a respite from the bustle inside the terminal.

TV lounges provided an area for tired travelers to temporarily conk out and a kids room had a number of computers loaded with games, but these were the most positive features of the lounge. A couple small juice carafes and a jug of ice water sat next to an empty chilled buffet that presumably held fruit earlier in the morning. A dispenser with covered pretzels looked as if it hadn’t been touched in a bit too long. The bar area was well-staffed but was far more focused on foisting $15 sandwiches on guests that had already paid dearly for entry than it was on dealing out complimentary drinks or snacks; even potato chips cost the better part of $3.

One area of the lounge featured pairs of chairs with angled podium-like structures jutting back towards them at an angle. Each of these podiums had a pair of Bose QuietComfort headsets, power outlets and a variety of themed radio stations good for enjoying the music. However, the headphones I found in working order apparently had a short in their wires, drastically impacting the sound quality. Most headphones were just flat-out broken.

At least the internet was speedy. I stayed here just long enough to post my review of the previous flight before making my way to the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

Navigating LAX

The aforementioned construction was affecting transfers from the domestic to international terminal, requiring a full exit from the domestic terminal and a short walk outside to the next building. It was just long enough of an opportunity outside on a perfect day for me to regret not having an extra few hours in Los Angeles.

When I arrived at security, the agent informed me that I needed to have my ticket reprinted on Fiji Airways stock; my American Airlines codeshare ticket would not do, for whatever reason. This was a minor five minute hassle, though the Fiji Airways representative was quick to produce a new boarding pass for me.

The other check-in areas nearby served as a miniature world’s fair of sorts. The ladies operating Korean Air’s desk were wearing the airline’s uniform, including the totally nonsensical but somehow appropriate ascot, rigidly sticking out from the left side of their necks. El Al’s desk was manned by operators appearing more stern than friendly; Emirates was fairly empty but featured screens boasting about their A380 service. Cathay Pacific rolled out a literal red carpet for its First Class passengers. A large digital screen, aping the flip-card departure boards of old, listed the multitude of flights leaving in the next several hours, nearly all of them heading far enough west for west to become east.

New ticket in hand, I made my way to security.

Security turned out to be a circus. This was especially the case given how many international passengers lacked English proficiency. A Chinese man set off a metal detector and was ordered to await special screening.

He searched all of his pockets and pulled out only an impossibly thick billfold that he shook questioningly at the TSA agent. “This is all I have in my pockets; since when do paper bills set off a metal detector?” he seemed to ask through his motions to the guard. After about 20 minutes in a dingy temporary security area, I made my way into the terminal while the man with the thick billfold awaited further inspection.

LAX International Lounge

I first made my way to the LAX International Lounge.

This was an area open to Business and First Class passengers on a variety of carriers that couldn’t offer access to the Oneworld or SkyTeam lounges located nearby. Though Fiji Airways partners with both American and Qantas, they aren’t actually part of Oneworld, meaning even passengers on codeshare tickets weren’t granted access to Oneworld’s Business or First Class lounges at LAX available to those traveling internationally.

The lounge was a disappointment. It was dimly lit and its interior positioning meant no windows to provide views of taxiing aircraft. A small dish with a hastily written note reading “Kosher” indicated the few foodstuffs religious passengers on El Al could comfortably eat. A dish of sushi that looked well past its prime might well have had a sign reading “Food Poisoning” above it.

I opted for the small caesar wrap that appeared most innocuous among the fresher items, skipping over the Cup O’ Noodles others in the lounge were choosing. A few minutes later, I grabbed a pack of peanuts and a Coke and made my way to the terminal, in search of a better spot to spend the hour or so before takeoff.

Tom Bradley International Terminal

I was very pleasantly surprised by LAX’s new international terminal. Clearly the nicest public area at LAX, this terminal featured a small mall operated by Westfield, populated by designer names. Bulgari, Georgio Armani, Michael Kors and others provided a last-chance for a departing passenger to stand out on their journey and for the arriving passenger to blend in.

Giant displays circled the perimeter of the mall area, flashing between sequences advertising various vendors and cute interstitials such as a Chaplin-esque black and white silent slapstick that paid homage to LA’s film heritage.

A number of airport-excellent dining options awaits in LAX’s international terminal. Local favorites like Umami Burger offer tasty meals at relatively reasonable prices. More serious culinary endeavors are located in an open space up an escalator in the center of the terminal. Among these was III Forks, a steakhouse with a location just a mile or so from my home in Jacksonville, providing one last weak pang of homesickness before the next flight. I haven’t actually eaten there before, so does it really matter there’s one near home?

Attractive seating areas provided ample space to stretch out before a flight. Rows of tremendous jets from international carriers were berthed up and down the terminal, but the windows were disappointingly filthy, making it tough to enjoy the view. I quickly spotted my Fiji Airways plane, an A330 that would appear large in most circumstances but which was decidedly small in comparison to the Asiana 747 and Korean A380 to its left.

I made a few quick calls before boarding began a comfortable 45 minutes or so prior to departure. I was eagerly anticipating my first look at Fiji’s Business Class offering, so I made my way toward the plane just a few minutes after boarding began.

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About PointsAway
Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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