Personal Review of Long Beach Airport: The Best Airport in the Los Angeles Area?
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
The Los Angeles area is blessed with four different major airports including Los Angeles International or LAX, one of the world’s major hubs. And yet, even though that California gateway often has the cheapest flights in the area, I avoid that monstrosity of congestion, crowds and long security lines. Instead, I prefer flying out of Long Beach Airport, located just 20 miles southeast.
Built in 1941, the airport terminal shows its Art Decor roots with its Streamline Moderne style of clean lines, ceramic mosaic floors and ceramic murals. This two-story building is small for the amount of traffic it handles. Passengers often have to walk onto the tarmac to reach their planes and collect their baggage from outdoor carousels. But the size lends the facility an air of informality. It’s easy to find gates, restrooms and shops, and staffers who can answer questions are never far away. The entire airport has free WiFi access.
Secure waiting lounges spill out onto two portable buildings. Security lines are generally quick, efficient and friendly. The airport is being modernized with 35,000 square feet of new construction that includes shops and waiting areas. But the project is not expected to finish until 2013. Parking is generally plentiful though pricy in a covered garage across the airport entry road.
Ten domestic airlines use this airport, including Alaska Airlines, US Airways and Delta, with JetBlue using LGB as a major hub. All destinations are domestic. The nearest freeway is the 405, which travels northwest and southwest, with both the equi-distant 605 and 10 offering north-south access.
Most travelers ignore the second story, despite the two stairways that offer clear access. Here you’ll find an exhibit on the history of the airport and local flight with photos, models and artifacts. The couches provide a brief respite from the crowds and noise downstairs. The overpriced Legends of Aviation Restaurant features sit-down service with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the runways.
The big secret to the second floor is the outdoor observation deck, which you reach by taking the small corridor on either side of the restaurant. You have excellent views of the planes taking off and landing on the runway. Bring your own sack lunch or a snack from the downstairs food stalls. You can dine on any of the outdoor tables, some of which sport umbrellas for protection against the sun.
Local transit, taxis and several shuttle services provide transportation options. Long Beach Airport is a particularly good facility for those renting cars. It’s the only airport in the area that doesn’t require a time-consuming shuttle ride to reach the rental car lot. From the main terminal, you cross the street to find the open-air rental car lot. Five companies make their home in the portable building including Avis, Budget and Hertz.
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