Traffic. You silly thing.
January 15, 2013 10:51 AM   Subscribe

LA Traffic Filter: How much time to head to the airport for an 8am flight on a weekday?

I can't believe I'm wasting a question on this, but I'm having real difficulty.

I have to fly to LAX from the east coast for a meeting. No big deal. However, in returning home, my flight is at 8am. I'm staying in the Huntington Beach area, which according to Google is a little less than 40 miles from LAX.

If I want to arrive at the airport at 6am on a Wednesday, knowing I have a 40 mile cab ride from Huntington Beach (it looks like the 405 is involved?) to LAX, how long will this take? Should I have my taxi pick me up at 5am to get there at 6am?

I have to stay at the hotel in Huntington Beach due to a meeting/conference and don't have other options. I have no transportation options but to take a taxi or the Super Shuttle (which is a 9-passenger van that makes stops). My company is cheap and won't spring for a car service or car rental, even though this would probably be waaaaay more cost effective than two cab rides, one out and one back, but I'm not about to argue logic with corporate policy.

Thank you!!!
posted by sockorama to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
According to Google Maps Traffic calculator, on Wednesdays the 405 starts to slow after 6. I would expect leaving at 5 (or 4:45) would be fine, and get you to LAX in time, but traffic is a crapshoot.

You may also want to check in with the hotel, as they have people doing this all the time no doubt.

FWIW, I am not in LA, so local knowledge may trump anything stated above.
posted by China Grover at 10:57 AM on January 15, 2013

I was going to say, to check with the hotel. They'll know what's normal and they may have a private car service or favored taxi.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:03 AM on January 15, 2013

It depends entirely on how far from the freeway your hotel is. For example, if you're staying by the actual beach in Huntington, it'll take you 15 minutes just to get to the 405.

If you're staying right by the 405 freeway, a taxi picking you up at 5:00 should get you there in plenty of time. The 405 is a bit unpredictable, and it can be stop-and-go-but-mostly-stop hell. But at that time of the morning, I'd count on it taking about 45 minutes to get from the freeway entrance in Huntington Beach to LAX. But that's if you're in a normal car, not a taxi.

Short version: If you're staying near the freeway, have the taxi pick you up at 5:00 and you should arrive a little earlier than you need to, but it will allow for unknown variables. If you're staying near the beach, have the taxi pick you up at 4:45.
posted by The World Famous at 11:13 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since the conference presumably ends the day before you're leaving, what about switching hotels and spending your last night at a different one right near LAX? Lower stress, don't have to get up as early, and probably cheaper for your company as well.
posted by something something at 11:36 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another alternative... Cab to Long Beach. Catch the blue line and transfer to the green line, then catch free shuttle to LAX.
posted by luckynerd at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2013

I don't think you need two full hours for a domestic flight, so you are already being overly cautious. And while the 405 is unpredictable, LA freeways before 6 AM are generally clear. I say this as someone who used to have to be on set for work at 7:00 AM or earlier - traffic problems that early are rare. If you leave your hotel at 5:30, you should be fine. If you really need to be at the airport at six for whatever reason, leave at 5.

The two hours gives you so much of a buffer that I wouldn't worry about it. And don't take the blue line - jesus! That is such a convoluted, long way of doing things that I really cannot understand why anyone would do that. The blue line to the green line alone is extremely slow, and if you're not used to taking the subway through Compton, don't do it that early in the morning.

In sum: The 405 generally sucks after 6 AM. Any time before that should be fine. And definitely go with the cab over the super shuttle. If your company's paying for it, a cab is faster and less stressful.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is NO TRAFFIC on the 405 at that hour unless shit has gotten really reaaaaaaallly real, like a tanker has overturned and set half the thing on fire. PLEASE don't take the blue to the green to the shuttle -- that will make you insane and there is no reason for it. Public transport to LAX from HB is way more of a pain in the A than a cab. I would absolutely not leave ANY earlier than 5am, and I am someone who is obsessive about getting to the airport early. That early in the morning, even at LAX, security is usually pretty easy breezy.

Leaving at 5 will give you plenty of time. But talk to the hotel if you're nervous -- this surely comes up for them all the time.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:54 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stay away from the blue line / green line if you're at all worried about time. That route can take anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on whether or not the transfer matches up and whether both trains have any issues. They're normally reliable, but not 100% by any stretch of the imagination.

Talk to the concierge at your hotel. They should have a reasonable idea of what time you should be there.

I do agree with the idea that you don't need 2 full hours, but erring on the side of earlier is better. Sitting at the airport drinking coffee and playing Angry Birds is usually preferable to being in a huge hurry because someone's fender bender shut down a lane on the freeway for 30 minutes.
posted by smoq at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2013

Seconding what Countess Sandwich said: Unless it's Christmas, airport security early in the morning is fast. And I find that the security lines at LAX are faster than other large airports, but that may or may not be true.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:17 PM on January 15, 2013

Nthing 5 AM-5:30 AM, which is what I usually do for morning flights when I'm flying out of LAX after visiting my parents in Orange County.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:24 PM on January 15, 2013

In the future, if you are going to be in North Orange County, just fly to Long Beach. It solves a lot of problems and they just opened an adorable new terminal.
posted by dame at 1:07 PM on January 15, 2013

Do not do Super Shuttle. If your company is willing to reimburse for a taxi, do that. As you said, Super Shuttle makes multiple stops and that can be frustrating when you just want to get to the airport instead of stopping at a bunch of hotels and you don't save thaaaat much money by doing it.

In my experience, 2 hours ahead is a perfect time to shoot for at LAX. I almost missed my last flight there due to standing in the security line for over an hour for an unexplained reason. Usually, it is quicker but better to get there early and relax.
posted by dottiechang at 1:13 PM on January 15, 2013

At that time of the morning, like World Famous said, 45m-1hr straight up the 405 should be gravy. The 405 can be rough, but not that early.

Security can be a bit ugly though, especially if you're flying on popular days, and especially if you're flying one of the worse airlines, like united. But 2 hours should be fine... you're not checking bags, are you? Don't check bags. Really...
posted by paultopia at 6:19 PM on January 15, 2013

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