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La Jolla Mom

Flying From San Diego To LAX: The Commuter Terminal And AA First Class

All flights between San Diego and LAX depart and land at the Commuter Terminal. Frequent fliers know the drill, but here’s a quick update for those of you who don’t fly very much or haven’t passed through there recently. Also, included is a quick run-down on the new American Airlines commuter plane first class.

Flying Time From SAN To LAX

Your ticket probably says flying time is 45-60 minutes. However, actually flying time is just over 20 minutes. San Diego has a noise ordinance so if you’re on an early morning flight that has a departure earlier than 6:30am, keep in mind that planes begin to take off at 6:30am so you won’t be in the air until you pass through the line-up.

Checking In And Security

There are no priority lines so it doesn’t matter if you have elite status on any airline–you wait with everyone else. They do have separate lines for self check-in and printing boarding passes so I avoid the line by checking in online and heading to this kiosk. However, on some international flights, you can’t check-in online especially if another airline is involved.

Priority access doesn’t exist for security lines either. Not to worry–since the planes are small, so are the lines. However, the terminal has a new backscatter X-ray machine. Basically, you step into a cylinder, hold your hands above your head and wait for the machine to scan your body. The technician will get an “ok” and then you can pass through. Between passengers not being used to the drill and the machine being new to the terminal, it took a bit longer to get through security than normal.

If You’re Hungry

There’s a snack center with two cashiers and a small Submarina sandwich counter. I waited in line for a water for longer than it took me to check in and get through security. There is a small coffee cart, a little bit of food, snacks and ice cream, if you’re in a bind. The flight to LAX is so short that you won’t be served anything to eat. (Updated: this area now has healthy sandwiches and looks completely different, but improved.)

Other Commuter Terminal Tips

You will need to walk outside to the airplane. If it’s early in the morning or winter, be mindful that it will be cold. It can also be windy, so have a sweater handy for kids. Basically, they let you out into a holding patio while you wait to be allowed out to the plane. I took the top photo from the holding patio at 6:00am.

Commuter Terminal Parking

Parking is relatively easy, though you pay for it. You can get dropped at the curb, but your driver can’t loiter or get out. I heard several announcements regarding cars being towed in the short while I was in the terminal.

American Airlines Upgrades

American Airlines CRJ-700 First Class


A short while ago, American Airlines stopped using the small prop planes to fly this route and I couldn’t be happier about it. They use the CRJ-700 regional jets that have been fitted with a first class, accessible by using one automatic upgrade. It has a little bit more legroom and is worth it if you have an excess of these upgrades. It was early in the morning so I apologize for the quality of these iPhone photos, but I wanted to show how there’s a bit more legroom and nicer seats. You also get a drink included, but I am not sure if alcohol is an option. I have flown in this class several times now and have not seen one single person order booze.

Arriving At LAX

If you’re flying to LAX and need to transfer to an international flight that leaves from Tom Bradley International Terminal or any other terminal,  you’ll have to exit Terminal 4 at street level and walk over. There are carts available for rental, if you can’t manage your carry-ons. The bummer is you’ll have to go through security again. If you are continuing on American Airlines, flights leave from Terminal 4.

There’s a Chili’s, Admiral’s Club and other fast food in Terminal 4. Gate 44, where the commuter planes arrive, also has a small deli, but unless you’re staying there, I’d grab something to eat in Terminal 4.

Arriving Back In San Diego

The Commuter Terminal has the fastest baggage claim in the west. Expect it only to take a few minute (usually), thankfully.

Safe travels!

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