Los Angeles' LAX Airport acts as a virtual springboard between Australia's east coast and the rest of the United States, allowing easy and one-stop access between Down Under and major cities like New York, Chicago, Houston and Boston.
With United Airlines flying daily to LA from both Sydney and Melbourne, we hopped aboard to see what the transit experience is like for passengers jetting to and through North America.
Connecting from Australia to other USA cities
Even though United normally flies from Terminals 7 and 8 at LAX, its early morning arrivals from Australia pull up at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) – the same familiar terminal used by Qantas and Virgin Australia.
As you disembark, business and leisure travellers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (with an ESTA) may be able to speed through the Automated Passport Control lanes if they've visited the USA at least once since 2008 on the same passport.
Alternately, first-time visitors or those with pre-arranged US visas can join the traditional passport queue, while those with tight connections may be offered a time-saving orange 'Express Connection' card for access to the fastest queue:
In any case, you'll then need to collect your checked baggage and clear Customs – even if your bags have been tagged through to your final destination – and then follow the signs to the connecting flights counters:
It's a quick walk down the corridor...
... and if your onward boarding pass was already printed in Australia you can quickly drop your bag off, head outside and follow the signs to the United terminals.
LAX does operate a free terminal transfer shuttle, but after sitting for 13-14 hours on flights from Australia, a 5-10 minute walk is a great way to stretch your legs and often gets you there faster than waiting for the bus.
Connecting from the United States to Australia
Things are easier in reverse as there's no need to clear Customs or passport control in the middle of the journey.
On checking-in at Newark Airport for our trip home from New York to Melbourne, our bag was again tagged through and both boarding passes were issued: one for our Newark-Los Angeles flight, and the other for Los Angeles-Melbourne.
As you arrive in Los Angeles, keep your eyes peeled for these purple 'transfer' signs...
... which tell you where you've landed and how to get from the other terminals:
United's flights to Sydney and Melbourne usually depart from Terminal 7, so there's no need to clear security again nor to collect your baggage and re-check it in LA: simply walk from your first flight to a United Club lounge and await your departure.
However, just be mindful that some domestic United flights do arrive in Terminal 8 – such as our flight from Newark/New York – but as it's linked 'airside' to Terminal 7, just follow the signs and you'll be in the right place in no time.
On the downside, neither of United's Los Angeles lounges have showers, which we'd frankly expect to find in such a major transit hub and can only hope are installed as part of United's $620 million overhaul of its facilities at LAX.
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Chris Chamberlin travelled to New York as a guest of United Airlines.
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