That my friends is the question.
As we neared completion of planning the itinerary for our trip to the USA and Canada we needed to figure out how to get back. It seemed the cheapest and easiest route that didn’t involve lengthy stopovers anywhere that potentially required overnight accommodation was to fly from Seattle to Los Angeles and then depart our international flight home.
The cheapest option involved booking the flights together, so the booking was Seattle -> Los Angeles -> Sydney. The flights were with Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Los Angeles and then Qantas the rest of the way to Sydney. The stopover at LAX though was only 1 hour and 30 minutes and we had to get from Terminal 6 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. My gut instinct was that this time is tight for a transfer between domestic and international terminals at Sydney airport, even without checked baggage, let alone at LAX.
So I did some searching around. I came across a lot of websites that talked about transfer times at LAX, but almost all were surrounding the time needed between arriving on an international flight and departing on a domestic flight. This isn’t much help to me since we don’t need to clear customs on arrival, only security as we enter the international terminal.
In fact the only information I found anywhere online that was even remotely helpful was this TripAdvisor forum topic and this Yahoo Answers question, both based on the same query but coming from a different terminal. Some of the answers here seemed to suggest that it was definitely possible, but it didn’t really put my mind at ease.
Fortunately a work colleague has flown through LAX a number of times and was able to give me some advice. She suggested that it was definitely possible, but she wouldn’t recommend it late in the day. The reason being that USA domestc flights are often delayed and run late, so the later in the day your flight is, the more likely it is to be later than scheduled and the more likely you are to have to rush and potentially miss your connecting international flight.
The flights we were looking at were an evening flight with a late night connection, so definitely late in the day there.
After speaking to a friend who has also been through LAX a few times they gave me more confidence that it is indeed possible, but I wasn’t entirely convinced.
In the end, we actually found a cheaper flight that has a slightly longer stopover but connects from Sydney on to Christchurch via Emirates. I assume it is cheaper to encourage people from the USA to fly to Christchurch with Emirates, but it works for us and solved our problem.
I am looking forward to finding out how long we actually need to transfer in LAX. If you’ve been through there and been in a similar scenario I’d love to hear from you. Is it possible to do a transfer like that in 1.5 hours? Are domestic USA flights really that late all the time?