how long does it take to get through lax international

Navigating through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), one of the busiest airports in the world, can be an adventure in itself.

My recent journey through LAX’s international terminal provided a wealth of experiences and insights that I’m eager to share with fellow travelers.

Whether you’re departing from or arriving at LAX, understanding the time required to navigate its complexities can significantly ease your travel planning.

This guide offers a comprehensive overview based on firsthand observation, aiming to prepare you for what to expect at LAX International.

Arrival at LAX

Upon arrival, the sheer size and bustling nature of LAX immediately stand out. The airport serves as a major hub for international travel, with flights connecting Los Angeles to all corners of the globe.

Here’s a breakdown of the key phases and approximate timeframes involved in navigating LAX International, based on my experience:

1. Check-In and Security Screening

how long does it take to get through lax international
  • Check-In: For international flights, airlines generally recommend arriving 3 hours before your scheduled departure. At LAX, this advice holds particularly true, especially during peak travel times. Check-in procedures, including baggage drop and receiving your boarding pass, can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your airline and whether you’ve checked in online beforehand.
  • Security Screening: The TSA screening process at LAX can be time-consuming, with wait times varying significantly based on the time of day and the season. On average, security checks can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. During peak hours or holiday seasons, I’ve witnessed wait times extending beyond an hour. TSA PreCheck members can expect a shorter wait, typically less than 15 minutes.

2. Terminal Navigation

LAX is vast, with multiple terminals connected by shuttle buses and walkways. Navigating from check-in to your gate, especially if you need to change terminals, can take an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow extra time if you’re unfamiliar with the layout or if your gate is at the far end of the terminal.

3. Boarding

Boarding for international flights usually begins around 45 to 60 minutes before departure. It’s crucial to be at your gate well in advance, as gates can close 15 to 20 minutes before the flight’s scheduled departure time.

4. Arriving at LAX

  • Immigration: For international arrivals, the immigration process can be the most time-consuming step. Wait times can range significantly, from 30 minutes to over an hour, based on the number of flights arriving simultaneously and the efficiency of the customs and immigration staff on that day.
  • Baggage Claim: After clearing immigration, you’ll proceed to baggage claim. Depending on the efficiency of baggage handling, expect to spend anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes waiting for your luggage.
  • Customs: The final step before exiting the airport involves passing through customs. This process is usually quick, taking about 5 to 10 minutes, unless you’re selected for a more thorough inspection.

Personal Experience and Tips

During my travel through LAX International, the entire process—from arrival at the airport to reaching the boarding gate—took approximately 2 hours.

This was a smooth experience, considering I traveled during a less busy period and used online check-in to expedite the process. However, I’ve learned that flexibility and preparation are key when navigating LAX.

Tips for a Smooth LAX Experience:

  • Arrive Early: Adhere to the recommended 3-hour arrival time for international flights to accommodate any unforeseen delays.
  • Check-In Online: If possible, check in online and use mobile boarding passes to save time at the airport.
  • Stay Informed: Use LAX’s official website or app to check real-time updates on security wait times and terminal information.
  • Prepare for Security: Have your travel documents readily accessible and adhere to TSA guidelines to expedite the screening process.
  • Familiarize Yourself with the Airport Layout: Knowing the layout of LAX and your terminal can save valuable time. If you need to transfer between terminals, factor in additional time for shuttle buses or walking.


Navigating LAX International requires patience and planning, especially given its size and the volume of passengers it handles daily.

While my experience was relatively smooth, peak travel times can significantly impact wait times and overall navigation through the airport.

By arriving early, preparing your travel documents, and familiarizing yourself with the airport’s layout and procedures, you can ensure a more relaxed and efficient journey through LAX International, whether you’re embarking on an international adventure or returning home.

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