American’s Domestic Departures from the Bradley Terminal at LAX Aren’t Ideal (Trip Report)

American, Trip Reports

I traveled a fair bit in October, but this trip was the last one for awhile. A good friend of mine had his 40th birthday party scheduled for the 24th up in the Bay Area, and I really wanted to go, but I was afraid I’d be too exhausted and busy after traveling the two weeks prior. I ended up making the trip and today I’ll write about the flight up. I’ll cover the return in a later post. This was my first time flying domestically from the Bradley International Terminal at LAX, and it wasn’t great.

Knowing that my plans weren’t firm, I once again turned to my old friend, British Airways Avios. Since flights under 650 miles are only 4,500 miles each way (at least for the next couple months), I already loved Avios for short haul travel. But you can also cancel awards up to 24 hours in advance and only lose the taxes. There was room on American to fly from LA roundtrip and it would be just 9,000 miles plus $11.20. I figured that since the worst case scenario was that I’d lose $11.20, I couldn’t go wrong. I’m glad I did because I ended up taking the trip. The only downside: I had to fly from LAX. This trip reminded me once again why I don’t like flying from there.

I had checked in using the app and was ready to go for the morning. I would leave the house at 630a and make it with enough time for my 8a flight. Then at 415a, an alert came in. My gate had changed and we were now leaving from the Bradley International Terminal. That’s strange. The airplane had come in the night before, but clearly the game of musical chairs somehow ended with our flight not having a gate.

This was problematic for me in that I had planned my time assuming I had Pre Check. But Bradley doesn’t have Pre Check (since none of the airlines there participate except, apparently, American). I asked American via Twitter if I could just go through Terminal 4 and shuttle over but they said to go straight to Bradley.


I walked into Bradley and found it nearly empty, save a little line at the Cathay Pacific counter for the airline’s 1015a departure.

TBIT LAX at Dawn

Out the window, the view was unique with my lonely American 737 parked with nothing else around except for a rising sun shining off the pointed roof. (This photo is now my desktop background.)

TBIT Security Line LAX

The new single security checkpoint at Bradley has opened. You walk upstairs and there are a ton of lanes… but they were mostly closed. With no priority line, no Pre Check line, and only a lane or two open, the line stretched all the way back. It took me about 15 minutes to get to the front. The entire time, I was starting to sweat. I looked at the large departure board just off to the side.

TBIT Departure Board LAX

American had scheduled a JFK and Lihu’e flight in addition to my San Francisco flight. Other than the previously-mentioned Cathay Pacific flight, a later Vegas flight and an Air China 1130a flight, nothing else left from the entire terminal before noon. It was so strange the line was this long.

Since I had Pre Check, they let me keep my shoes on even though this wasn’t a Pre Check station. Apparently somebody tweaked the metal detector settings, because for the first time ever, my shoes set off the alarm. Once I took them off, it was fine.

TBIT Boarding gate LAX

Because security took so long, I walked up to the gate just as they were boarding my zone. I walked right on to the airplane and took my seat.

October 24, 2015
American 2438 Lv Los Angeles 8a Arr San Francisco 922a
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 155, Runway 24L, Depart 3m Early
San Francisco (SFO): Gate 56A, Runway 28L, Arrive 12m Early
N975AN, Boeing 737-823, Ugly flag colors, ~95% Full
Seat 13A, Coach
Flight Time 52m

The flight was packed, but boarding went smoothly and we pushed back a couple minutes early. After taxiing to the north side, we were airborne in no time.

I pulled out my computer and logged on for a few minutes to get some work done. But of course on a short flight like this one, you can’t log on for long. The flight attendants came through with drinks, and I just had a water. Strangely, the people in the middle and aisle were angling themselves to make it hard for me to reach around them to get my drink. They just stared and didn’t offer to help.

Landing SFO

We descended over Monterey and came up into the Bay Area. The low clouds stopped just short of the approach path into SFO, so we narrowly avoided delays, I assume. After landing, it was a quick taxi to the terminal and I was on my way.

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25 comments on “American’s Domestic Departures from the Bradley Terminal at LAX Aren’t Ideal (Trip Report)

      1. Well, I guess when the connector is built, it will alleviate that problem. But, right now, that stinks if you’re an Admirals Club member and are not given a lounge option in the terminal from which your flight departs.

  1. B; Don’t you think you can move on from referring to the AA tail the way you do? This “ugly tail” habit weakens your reliability.

    1. Cranky,
      Please continue to call the AA tail” Ugly Flag”. because it is true. It makes you even more creditable in my eyes.

    2. While I in no way think calling it an ugly design lessens your credibility (it’s an opinion after all and we’re all entitled to disagree), I did have a visceral reaction when I read “ugly flag” just because I wouldn’t want those two words in the same sentence about something that represents our incredible nation. My humble recommendation would be call it an “ugly tail” if u want, but maybe not “ugly flag”?

      Full disclosure: I loved the AA symbol tail but this new AMAZING Flag tail has definitely grown on me and now I love it :)

      1. It would be one thing if it actually used the American flag. However, it’s just a stylized version of the flag. The stripes don’t line up, there’s no stars, just white streaks. You could make the argument that it’s actually the Liberian Flag, the Chilean Flag, a really stylized Ohio State flag!

        Count me in the Ugly Tail camp. And bring back the Tulip!

      2. I find it incredible in the age of the Internet and international jet travel that there are still knee jerk flag worshippers out there.

  2. So the airlines keep your U.S. taxes if you cancel, that doesn’t seem right, sounds fishy since your aren’t traveling.

    So you were wearing metal shoes to set off the metal detector?

    That’s a big problem with flying, the airline may tell you to be there a certain time before your flight, but you can never plan on what TSA is doing with security. How many lines are open, what each airport is doing that day for security, how many brain cells the TSA agents may have (or not have).

    1. David SF – Well, there’s actually a redeposit fee, but if the redeposit fee is higher than the taxes, then they just keep the lower amount when you cancel online. So this is a benefit.

      As for my shoes, I had no idea there was metal in them, but apparently there’s some. They’re just slip-ons.

  3. I’ve been taking this flight (AA2438) up to San Francisco every Monday morning for the last three months. About four weeks ago, they started scheduling it regularly from Tom Bradley. This is now a regular thing, and it’s horrible. No Pre-Check and no Admirals Club access for frequent fliers. The new TBIT is beautiful, but at that time of day literally nothing is open except a Starbucks (which always has 50 people in line) and a Hudson News. Everything else is still closed up.

    Yes, when the connector opens next year it will connect T4 and TBIT and then all of this will be moot. But the connector isn’t open now, and TBIT at 630am is not a pleasant place.

    American has been running domestic flights out of TBIT for several months now, but they’re generally to places like Orlando and Las Vegas that are largely leisure routes. It’s really frustrating to see a heavy business route like LAX-SFO leaving from a terminal that (at that time of day, anyhow) offers none of the conveniences American is always gushing about offering to business travelers.

  4. I’m curious if there is a buss running to tbit from T4 now (for AA pax.) I’ve never been to TBIT, and only connected in LAX once (t4-eagles nest), but noticed in the newest American Way airport diagram it shows a bus running between t4-tbit and doesn’t note that its just for QF pax like before. Wouldn’t have thought much but the ORD map still shows the BA only bus.

    1. jeffery – I believe there are still buses running. There would have to be for any connectors I’d think, but I don’t know anything about frequency.

  5. Surprising to see such a long security line with hardly any flights. My last TBIT experience (admittedly back in July) was catching one of the several evening flights back to Australia (eg. one of the peak times, you’d think). I was through in 5 minutes. Maybe it’s a staffing issue? Anyway, seems pretty weird to see a line that long.

  6. AA assigns the aircraft to TBIT and that’s it. Passengers arrive at TBIT wandering clueless looking to check bags and get boarding passes; no AA ticket counters. AA refuses to even have an agent assisting in the TBIT lobby. The TSA are surprised by the AA flights and are not ready for them. A lot of these pax are fuming!

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