What is the best time to schedule my pickup?
When is the best time to arrive at LAX?

"My flight leaves at 10am...

...what time should we arrive at LAX?

Today is trying for all of us in the limousine business. The pandemic has greatly limited air travel with some experts forecasting a very slow to return to normalcy by Summer 2022.

If there is a silver lining in this for those travelers who need to fly, the scene at most airports today is a glimpse of commercial travel and what it might have been like in the early 1950’s.

Little or no traffic to the airport. Short lines. Quick processing. Ease of access. Half capacity flights.

But this will not last forever…

With vaccines on the horizon, people will begin to fly more and challenges are expected. The slower pace today will begin to dissolve and soon more cars will be on the road with more planes in the air. Blood will boil. Horns will honk. Pressure will mount. And those familiar questions will be asked:

What time do we need to leave for LAX?

Right now, it’s easy. Getting in and out of LAX is remarkably unstressful due to COVID-19. Almost shockingly so. Hours otherwise spent in ordinary Los Angeles morning gridlock are now once familiar “30 minutes” from all parts of the city.


Airport Car Service
The first question we ask is:

...How soon do you want to be at your gate?

  • “Do you have TSA pre-check?”
  • “Are you flying First Class?”
  • “When is the last time you were at the airport?” 

The last question, remarkably, tells us a lot. If you have not been to LAX in a while, the common answer “1 hour for domestic and 2 hours for international flights” no longer applies. At full capacity, with the LAX monorail construction, it can take 25-30 minutes just to circumnavigate the CTA (Central Terminal Area) — and we have not yet factored in the time from your home!

Indeed, the norm for most departures is a minimum one hour for domestic and two hours for international flights. That advice works in a lot of travel markets and will be the minimum airline expectation on their website. Delta Airlines is just under the wire and suggests 45 minutes for domestic flights with baggage and 30 minutes with no checked bags.  

However, in cities like Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago, ordinary morning commutes are fraught with traffic, closed routes, accidents and ever-increasing populations meaning more and more cars. Routes that were once shortcuts, are now well-traveled thanks to phone apps like Waze and Google Maps. All this diminishing space means more time needed to travel. 

Interestingly enough, there is a simple formula to determine when to arrive at LAX or any other airport. In this article we will take a look at the formula and was to affect each element of the formula. Some of these can be modified depending on the circumstances. Some are fixed and cannot be changed.

What’s the formula?

  • Travel time to the airport +
  • Traffic inside the airport departures level +
  • Time to check bag and acquire boarding pass if needed +
  • TSA security time +
  • Personal time (Are you the type of person that likes to be at LAX early or do you want to get out of the car curb-side, rush through TSA and jump on the plane.) 

Add all of these times together and you have your ideal departure time.

First things first.

When should I book my outbound flight?

"Schedule your flight to leave the airport around 1:00 pm when possible"

If you really want to optimize the above formula, start at the begining with your flight.

By thinking about what time to schedule your flight first, you automatically cut most or all of the times in the formula down to a more manageable level and take a little control of your travel day.

Of course, sometimes this is not so easy when flying internationally, when there are not to many flights to my destination or if someone else is booking the flight for you. 

When you can book your own flight and have a lot of options of outbound flight times, there are 2 main points of consideration.

  1. How bad is the traffic on the freeways when I will be heading to LAX?
  2. How busy is the departures level at LAX at the time of my departure?
Often, we don’t think about the traffic to the airport so we book our flight in the mid to late morning assuming that there won’t be that many departures from LAX as they mostly leave early in the AM. This belief is erroneous and doesn’t take into account the facts.
The facts are: If your flight is scheduled to leave at 10:00 or 11:00 am, traffic to LAX will be brutal and you will need to schedule your car service to leave your home or hotel during morning rush hour.
Schedule your flight to leave the airport around 1:00 pm when possible. If your flight leaves LAX at 1:00 pm, you will leave your house or hotel at around 10:00 am at the end of  morning traffic. 
Depending on where you are starting from, this will get you to LAX at around 11:00 am and all the morning flights will have departed and you feel like will have an entire international airport all to yourself.