Everyone knows LAX: the traffic, the googie Theme Building (above), the glowing columns as you drive in. But perhaps befittingly for such a sprawling, massive city, LA actually has a handful of other airports.
I’ve flown into all of these airports many times, and they all have pros and cons. Below, I break down their primary strengths and weakness. (Note: I’m leaving out both Ontario Airport and John Wayne, in Orange County, because they’re too far from LA’s core to be very useful to most visitors.)
LAX is the city’s biggest airport by far, and is one of the world’s busiest. If you fly in and out of LA much, you’re going to end up here at some point. That’s particularly true if you’re flying internationally.
• Arguably the most centrally located of LA’s airports, especially if you’re visiting multiple sites across the region.
• Public transit connections are possible (though time consuming).
• More flight options.
• Free wifi (at least in the terminals I have used).
• Traffic gets really bad, which makes arriving on time a challenge and getting out of the airport a nightmare.
• The customs is very poorly designed.
• In general and aside from the international terminal, the airport generally feels dingy and cramped.
Long Beach is the furtherest out of these three airports, and the smallest. It also recently underwent a drastic, and lengthy remodel, which did wonders.
• Hands down the prettiest and most chill (and most Californian) airport on this list, Long Beach’s post-security areas are largely outside and shaded by rows of palm trees. Once you’re at this airport, it’s a pleasure to experience.
• There’s a delicious food truck that parks out front.
• The airport has maintained its historic building, and actively cultivates its vintage roots. (Burbank has a similar building, but Long Beach’s is better.)
• The airport is so small that (at least in my experience) the entire process is very laid back.
• The location is really bad and poorly connected to the rest of LA via transit. An Uber ride from central LA to the Long Beach airport once cost me $45. This makes getting stuck in Long Beach a real bummer.
• Like Burbank, flight options are limited.
Burbank (aka Bob Hope)
This small airport is located in the Valley and is a great option if you’re just headed to Hollywood or north LA. It’s less useful if you’re headed out to Orange County (e.g. Disneyland) or further south.
• This airport is connected to the rest of L.A. via train, which travels to downtown’s Union Station (a site worth seeing in itself). Free shuttles also link the airport to Red Line, which passes through Hollywood.
• The smaller crowds are less intense than LAX, and traffic never gets anywhere near as bad.
• Though further from the beach, Burbank’s location is still convenient to much of LA.
• Fewer flights.
• An unimpressive and somewhat cramped interior with limited dining options.
And the winner is…
Burbank! Though Long Beach is prettier and LAX has more flights, those airports’ location and maddening congestion, respectively, cancel out a lot of their strengths. And honestly if you can avoid LAX, you should.
Burbank, on the other hand, may not be the flashiest or the biggest airport, but its superior transit connections, relative proximity to other destinations, and small size give it a rare and winning combination.
— Jim Dalrymple II