Transfer time in LAX: Flying from Canada to Japan
July 3, 2013 7:40 PM   Subscribe

We are flying from Toronto to LAX (on Air Canada) and then LAX to Tokyo (on United), with a layover in LAX of 95 minutes. Based on my research, I assume we will be passing from Terminal 2 to 7. We're both Canadian citizens, if that matters. I haven't seen anything definitive on this particular transfer, but based on other AskMefi LAX answers it seems a little unlikely this will work... Is that enough time?
posted by ordinary_magnet to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (15 answers total)
Is this booked as a single ticket, or did you book it yourself as two separate trips?
posted by jacalata at 7:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Single ticket, through United - sorry should have added that.

The very nice lady at United assured us there would be no problems, everything is fine, plenty of time, don't worry... but she sounded like she was calling from a non-local call centre that maybe didn't know so much about the issue.
posted by ordinary_magnet at 7:58 PM on July 3, 2013

My lifetime of experience at LAX indicates that if you're coming from another country it can take a verrry long time. Terminal 2 may not be as bad as Bradley, but still, I would feel pretty itchy about a layover under 2 hours.
posted by town of cats at 8:01 PM on July 3, 2013

You're not coming from another country because you've already passed through customs. I don't know if 95 minutes is enough -- if your luggage is checked through, possibly -- but flights from Toronto come in where flights from US cities do.
posted by jeather at 8:19 PM on July 3, 2013

Just seconding that you'll almost certainly go through customs in Toronto before you board the flight to the US. I believe that it's a courtesy thing that the US does for Canadians.
posted by juliebug at 8:22 PM on July 3, 2013

Double check. Last time (about 4 years ago) I flew from Toronto to a destination in America I did US customs in Toronto and then landed at a regular domestic terminal in America. In that case a 95 minute layover is not a problem.
posted by sbutler at 8:29 PM on July 3, 2013

I'm just going to corroborate what jaether says. At LAX, your flight from Canada will be treated just like a domestic flight from the U.S because you've already gone through U.S. customs before boarding your flight. You won't need to do the whole rigamarole of getting your checked baggage, lugging it through customs, going to the other terminal, re-checking it again, etc. 95 minutes should be plenty.

juliebug: I believe that it's a courtesy thing that the US does for Canadians.

It's actually a courtesy thing that Canada allows U.S. customs enforcement to operate in our airports and train stations. It means the U.S. doesn't have to worry about sending people back if they're denied entry, and means U.S. airports can be simpler because flights from Canada are treated just like domestic flights. It's actually a reciprocal agreement, so Canadian customs enforcement could also operate in US airports, but Canada hasn't done so.
posted by Emanuel at 8:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

We fly from Victoria to Vancouver to Japan. To get from Victoria to Vancouver we have to fly Air Canada Jazz, and their hub is on the opposite end of YVR from the international departures.

The booking agent (or the Vancouver-based travel company) always always always miscalculates how much time the transfer will take, and always leaves it waaaaaaaaaaaay too close.

Short answer: don't trust the person on the phone, who is likely not even located in Canada or the US.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 PM on July 3, 2013

Your luggage should be checked through to Tokyo and you will be going through customs in Toronto.
You can confirm this with Air Canada by phone. You should be OK as long as your flight is on time.
Have a good trip!
posted by Snazzy67 at 9:06 PM on July 3, 2013

Emanuel - Thanks for the info! I wasn't sure why we don't have our customs agents in the US while they have theirs here. Appreciate it. :)
posted by juliebug at 10:30 PM on July 3, 2013

FYI, if you've never traveled through LAX, inter-terminal transfer is far from ideal. I don't believe terminals 2 and 7 are connected post-security at all so your options are to either take a shuttle bus (after security) between the terminals or simply to walk.
posted by andrewesque at 11:13 PM on July 3, 2013

If you haven't done so already, I would also ask the question on the FlyerTalk forums, more specifically the United MileagePlus forum, since you're flying United (despite the forum name, threads are not restricted to the frequent flyer program, and cover most anything about flying on the particular airline). You want to ask about minimum connecting time (MCT).

You could also sign up at to use their tool to find out MCT for the particular airline / airport you're flying (MCT will vary depending on the airline and connection type). You need a paid subscription to use this tool, but in practice it seems if you post a MCT question on FlyerTalk somebody will look it up on ExpertFlyer for you.
posted by needled at 4:41 AM on July 4, 2013

You will clear US customs in Toronto (remember to leave time for this when you leave home). Then once in LAX you need to get from Terminal 2 to 7. LAX is big, and has a looping road with shuttle buses running every 15 minutes or so. So that takes half an hour more or less. Then you have to go through security in Terminal 7.

You don't have a load of spare time. But given it's all one ticket so you don't have to check in or check baggage and United is on the hook if the Toronto flight is late, 95 minutes seems feasible to me, unless you take a long time going through security or have mobility issues.

I have personally done the 2 (from Canada) to 8 connection in 90 minutes and had a few minutes to spare. I actually walked rather than taking the shuttle bus, because when I got to the curb, it had just left. I walked straight across the loop rather than going around; it was not a well marked path, but rather a series of parking garages and back lanes. I beat the shuttle bus to terminal 8.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:41 AM on July 4, 2013

I have made transfers at LAX on flights going between Canada and the US a couple of times and have maybe made the terminal 2 to 7 jaunt. Sounds familiar to me (Air Canada was always involved so at least I would've been going into or out of terminal 2).

I believe that is plenty of time. With one caveat - MAKE SURE you have a paper boarding pass for the second leg. I had an electronic boarding pass on a tight connection at LAX once and they would not accept it once I had to reclear security after I had changed terminals.

I had to get a printed boarding pass which was a real PITA at 11:30 pm after my flight had closed and further checkins were not possible. (Talking in circles with a mildly unhelpful check-in desk attendant who was only still there because she was chit chatting with a security guard - I have already checked in, I don't need to check in, I have a set, I just need my boarding pass reprinted..... aaargh). If you have to go through some rigamarole about having to reprint a boarding pass on paper to reclear security you're encountering a barrier you can avoid by being forewarned.

Even if it is tight, Air Canada and United are in the Star Alliance together so your luggage will be checked through and the second leg will (should?) be aware if you are late landing in LA.

Also, in my two or three transfers at LAX I have never seen a shuttle. I think they are spaced 10 to 15 min apart and with that clock ticking in my mind I though to take control of the transfer and just walk. It is not that far. Basically walking across a parking garage, and can be faster than the shuttle anyway, as stated above.
posted by gspm at 9:33 AM on July 4, 2013

You're fine. We flew from Calgary to Singapore and changed from AC to SA at LAX and it was easy as pie even though we changed airlines. If you're flying UA all the way to Tokyo you're in great shape.

Note: Every Canadian who uses airports knows that you go through US customs in the CANADIAN airport. It's not just at Pearson. There is no need to remind OP of this. People on AskMe always mention this like it's a little known fact. And then assume that it's only done in Vancouver or Toronto since those are the only Canadian cities that exist in their minds. It's done at every major Canadian airport from coast to coast.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:18 PM on July 5, 2013

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