We flew home from Hong Kong, crossing the Pacific through a miserable haze of cough meds and throat lozenges, but the real fun began on landing at Los Angeles Airport (LAX). As is standard U.S. port-of-entry policy, all transferring passengers had to disembark and go through immigration and customs, picking up bags at a baggage claim and depositing them at a dropoff after customs before continuing on to their connecting flights.
The way to immigration from our arrival gate was through a maze of twisty little passages, all alike, ending in a long, snaking immigration queue in a crowded, dimly lit, sterile basement — where there were too few immigration representatives, too many arriving residents, and, to my bladder’s dismay, no restrooms. (On the up side, we were waved through customs with nothing to declare because dried mango balls are not technically fruit.) Worse still was the fact that we had less than two hours to make our transfer, and the wait for our bags plus the wait in the immigration queue had left us no hope of catching our connection. Fortunately our airline had a service counter right at the bag dropoff, so we were able to rebook a later flight — the main drawback being that we would have to spend three extra hours at LAX. Not so bad, right?
We emerged from the International Arrivals exit and looked around — and could not find anything indicating where passengers transferring to domestic flights are supposed to go. There were no signs or arrows pointing to domestic departures, the single escalator coming from above was going down, and the travel information desk was unmanned. Finally we were approached by a cheery, official looking woman equipped with a map of the airport and instructions for transfers — who turned out to be a volunteer for a local homeless shelter who was soliciting donations from hapless lost travelers like us. So after learning that we were supposed to go up a small unmarked escalator out by the arrivals driveway, we had to stand through a rather lengthy spiel and give a ten. Thanks, Los Angeles!
Upstairs, the line for security guaranteed that we would have missed our flight had we not rebooked. Worse, there were no signs or guides as to whether to remove shoes, laptops, and jackets, or what went in separate bins, causing a scene of general chaos at the head of the line, exacerbated by yelling TSA guards and beeping metal detectors.
Once inside the concourse, we couldn’t find our gate because the arrows had fallen off the signs, or had loosened so that they hung haphazardly over the heads of passengers. I dropped by the money changer to get rid of my Hong Kong dollars, but got stuck in line behind a trio of confused women trying to buy Hong Kong dollars for their trip.
The only decent food we could find was La Salsa (which looks a lot like Baja Fresh), and the floor was dirty, but there was a nice view of planes on the tarmac.
Then we left and flew to a new transfer. At Chicago O’Hare. I don’t remember much of that other than us walking through a crowded terminal looking for food and finding nothing better than McDonalds before flying out to National Airport and taking a taxi home, where Pandora was happy to see us.
I still like travel, and I still like flying, but wow, we went through some pretty trashy airports on this trip, especially compared to HKG.