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Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

Vancouver, Canada
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Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

cross posted in California forum. . .

We were originally on a flight from Vancouver BC YVR to LAX, then onto Auckland, but the flight from YVR to LAX was cancelled and now we are routed through SFO, so yvr to sfo to lax to aukland to perth. I have just read that changing terminals in LAX is a nightmare and means having to come out of the secured area and go back through the security line, etc.

So, would you suggest a 1hr 17min stopover in SFO (both on United) and 3hr stopover in LAX (United and Air New Zealand), OR 2hr 21 min in SFO and 2hr at LAX (same airlines as previous option)? We would be going from a United terminal, possibly terminal 8 to terminal 2 for ANZ, from what it says on the terminal map about which airlines fly into which terminals.

If we are coming out of the secured zone, would we collect our checked luggage and check in again, or would that go straight through?

We have two kids and don't want to be rushed in case there is a delay, or someone needs to go to the bathroom, etc.

The other option is a really early morning flight on Air Canada to LAX and have 11 hours to wait AND be in the same terminal.

Thanks for any suggestions or advice.

Portland, Oregon
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1. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

Assuming all flights are on one ticket (and everything you've said indicates you are), your bags will be checked right through to AUK. You'll also clear US immigration and customs at YVR, so you'll be transiting in SFO as if domestic passengers. That said, I believe that to change from United (T7 or T8) to ANZ (T2) you have to go landside and reclear security.

The one question I have is are you certain that the United flights YVR-SFO are actually operated by UA and not codeshares operated by Air Canada? It's important because AC use T1 at SFO and in that case you would also need to transit landside there to T3.

But assuming you are on UA operated flights, personally I'd opt for the first option. Transit at T3 is very easy, and assuming an on time arrival or even a small delay you should be fine. That gives you more slack at LAX.

Indeed, if anything were to go wrong en route to SFO, you'd have the later SFO-LAX flight as a potential backup/Plan B.

Portland, Oregon
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2. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

And here's another thought. Air New Zealand also flies to Aukland from SFO. Rather than have to connect through two US cities, why not see if you can avoid LAX altogether and go YVR-SFO-AKL?

Auckland Central...
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3. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

With 2 children why are you not flying direct from Vancouver to Auckland??? Or have I missed something????

Portland, Oregon
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4. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

>>With 2 children why are you not flying direct from Vancouver to Auckland??? Or have I missed something????<<

Dang - why didn't I think of that? !

In fairness to the OP, the LAX route may have been cheaper, and with 4 pax that could have added up to quite a saving.

But now, with an airline imposed schedule change, it would certainly be worth asking for that option.

Melbourne, Australia
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5. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

Yes, good call ! Vancouver direct AUK then connection stillon Air NZ to Melbourne or Sydney and then collect luggage in Australia clear customs and get Qantas domestic flight to Perth. Air NZ definately easiest best option. No domestic Air NZ flights in Australia so you need to book Qantas for last leg.

Vancouver, Canada
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6. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

Thanks all, for your thoughts.

Just to clarify. . . .

Yes, the flights from YVR to SFO to LAX are united and not AC codeshare, so that makes the quick connection in SFO more do-able.

Yes, it's all on one ticket through aeroplan (star alliance), so that is the reason we are booked with all the stops instead of direct from YVR to Aukland. When I booked several months ago, I took advantage of being able to book 355 days in advance and got the direct flight from SYD to YVR on our return leg, but because our trip is a month long, I was not able to snag the good flights for the outbound portion, so it was YVR-LAX-AUK-PER. (Then we are paying for our own one way tickets on Virgin Blue from Perth to Sydney 3 weeks later)

My kids have food allergies so I didn't want to fly through asia and risk eating food at the airport that wasn't properly labelled, so I opted to fly out of the US and directly into Aus/NZ, where I trust the food labelling.

I found out when trying to do seat selection a few weeks ago that the YVR to LAX was cancelled and we are going to LAX via SFO. Pain in the butt, yes, but the only other flight they can put us on is the 7.40am direct YVR to LAX which is a 12 hour wait in LAX. I'm now trying to decide whether to do the short stop in SFO and longer stop in LAX, or just fly super early and have a long wait at LAX.

What are shuttles like from one terminal to another at LAX, or is it faster to walk? What distances are we talking about, from say 8 to 2?

I was told to check back on aeroplan to see if a direct flight to LAX comes up as routings can change frequently. Can only check and keep fingers crossed. . .

Perth, Australia
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7. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

We made our first trip to the US in November, and we had also read and been told so many things about LAX being a dreadful airport to transit through, what a nightmare it was etc etc that we were really NOT looking forward to it at all - we were expecting it to be some hell-hole, the size of a small country, that we would never escape from!!! It turned out to be nothing of the sort. On arrival from Australia, we flew in to Terminal 5, had to go through immigration, collect our luggage and go through customs - all the officials were very friendly and helpful, and we'd cleared the terminal within about 30 minutes, which was very unexpected! We then had to head to Terminal 1 as our connecting flight was with Southwest. The footpath (sorry, sidewalk!) outside the terminals is very wide and flat and it was easy to walk from one terminal to another - and to be honest, after 14 hours on a plane, we were more than happy to be on our feet and walking! As you can see from maps of LAX, the terminals are laid out in a horseshoe shape with the numbers running consecutively, and it probably took us about 15 minutes or so to walk around to T1, trundling all our luggage with us. Leaving the US, we arrived in T1 via Southwest, and had to fly out from T3, and again, not a difficult walk at all even with all our luggage (managed to grab a free cart that had been left outside the terminal doors, rather than pay for one!), took us maybe 5 minutes.

Yes, LAX is a big airport, but finding our way around was surprisingly easy and certainly not the nightmare we'd been told it would be. The security lines can be quite long, especially if there are flights due to depart as a lot of people seem to leave it to the very last minute to head to their gate, but the lines move surprisingly quickly - far more quickly, I must say, than most security/screening lines I've experienced at international terminals here in Australia!

Edited: 06 January 2012, 02:44
Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

Thank you, Jurahn - that's totally helpful. One question, though. Were the legs of your flight booked separately? I'm wondering if everyone has to collect their checked luggage to change terminals at LAX? That would be a major pain in the behind. Thanks.

Perth, Australia
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9. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

Glad to be of help :). Yes, our flights were booked separately - we flew with Virgin/V Australia Perth-Brisbane-LAX so our bags were checked through all the way to LA. However I booked all our domestic US flights (LAX-Las Vegas, Vegas-Tucson, Tucson-LAX) separately with Southwest, as they were cheaper than the codeshare flights Virgin offered us with their US partner airlines, and Southwest's flight schedules were also much better for the connections we needed - but of course that meant we had to collect our bags when changing terminals at LAX.

Edited: 07 January 2012, 09:03
Newmarket, Canada
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10. Re: Connecting through SFO and LAX - advice appreciated

EhwYVR, you will not have to collect your bags in LAX, they will be checked all the way through to AKL. Remember, you will pass through US immigration in YVR, so you will essentially be arriving in SFO and LAX as a domestic passenger. So, yes, you'll be reclearing security if you change terminals, but you don't have to worry about your checked bags.

I've redeemed many Aeroplan rewards (including AKL via LAX a couple of times), so I understand why you perhaps had to settle for a routing that was not your first choice--reward availability is always limited. That said, did you ask Aeroplan about trying to put you on a more preferred routing? In times when a schedule change cancels the reward flight you are on, I've been successful at getting Aeroplan to make non-reward seats available for me as alternates, since it's not your fault the change was made. In this case, they have found an alternate routing by sending you via SFO, so they're probably not obligated to open up space elsewhere, but it might be worth the call. Perhaps they could send you YYZ-SFO-AKL, or even YYZ-AKL (assuming there's a flight on your day of travel--I think that only operates 3 or 4 days per week). If you don't ask...

It's also possible that more reward seats have since opened up. There was a time when all Star Alliance reward seats were basically 'born' at a specific time about 11 months out, but that's changed a bit. I've seen many *A carriers release additional reward seat inventory much closer to travel dates. I stll try to book my rewards a year out, but always keep watching regularly for better routings to appear, and have paid change fees many times to grab them as they come up.