An Airport Hotel Needs to Be Able to Reliably Get You to the Airport

I’ve stayed at the Sheraton LAX countless times (and reviewed it here).

LAX doesn’t have very many nice hotel properties, and the Sheraton has always been reasonably reliable. Plus there’s a Starbucks in the lobby that opens at 5am.

I usually say that my criteria for choosing an airport hotel is:

  • The one attached to the terminal, if price allows.
  • If no property attached to the terminal, then whichever has been most recently renovated.

Take New York JFK, a true pit for airport hotels, 7 years ago the choice was the Hilton Garden Inn – most up to date. That was replaced by the Sheraton. Now the go-to is the Hilton JFK.

I recently stayed at the Sheraton LAX again. There’s nothing attached to the terminal. All hotel shuttles are generally slow because getting in and out of LAX is a challenge. Plus most shuttles are shared between multiple hotels or between hotels and parking lots. And they stop at each terminal. Still, without a ton to choose from…

I’ve stayed a couple of times at the new Hyatt Place LAX/El Segundo. They had early teething problems with their hotel shuttle, but based on a subsequent stay earlier this year seemed to have that worked out. I do suggest making reservations for the ride back to the airport when you check in, just to be safe.

My biggest frustration with the Hyatt Place is that the shuttle isn’t 24 hours.

But that’s better than what I experienced at the Sheraton LAX… full shuttles.

They don’t offer reservations. They don’t operate the shuttle themselves. As a result they take very little ownership over it. The shuttle comes, the front desk has nothing to do with it, you wait outside and wait.. and wait…

The first shuttle was full. So everyone had to wait.

15 minutes later another shuttle came by. This time there was room for only four or five people to get on board. Everyone else was told to… wait.

I need to revise my criteria for selecting an airport hotel. An airport hotel needs to be able to reliably get you to the airport.

    The shuttle end times came. These people were Left Behind.

Next time I will go with the Hyatt Place, it’s newer and despite shuttle teething problems deserves a go because their challenges seem no worse than the Sheraton’s. And at least they let you list for a reservation on their shuttle.

I managed to be one of the four or five people that made it onto the second shuttle. I don’t know whether the people that were left behind ever eventually made it out. I like to think that they did.

I’d also like to think that an airport hotel would be more proactive. First, at peak morning times they need to ensure sufficient capacity. Second, if unexpected surges happen they should take ownership over transporting their guests quickly to the terminal — they may have their own cars, they could pay for taxi cabs.

Instead I was just told “the shuttle comes around frequently.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Many airport hotels fall flat on the one thing they must get right: access to the airport. Excepting those few in-terminal hotels, most rely on shuttle bus service. How many do not provide shuttle details on their website? How many neglect to mention the shuttle does not run 24 hours or that it is on demand and you must call? How many slip in extra charges for the shuttle? And how many run a terrible shuttle? […]


  1. Just stayed there and was underwhelmed. The place needs renovations. It feels old

  2. In these situations what’s your take on hailing a taxi and invoicing the hotel?

  3. Reliable airport transportation should be of the highest priority to the operation of an airport hotel.

    My dad was stranded in PHL overnight this Sunday due to a mechanical cancellation. US put him up at the Quality Inn. He had a 9:30AM flight the next morning. The hotel informed him that the only shuttle they were offering the next morning was at 4:30AM because the other guests had earlier flights. Apparently he was the only one with a later flight and they wouldn’t run a shuttle for 1 guest. I didn’t get the story until the next day, but I was flabbergasted.

  4. Yes, that is the #1 criteria.

    Last April I had an overnight stay at Istanbul International (IST) changing planes overnight from Ankara to Amsterdam/JFK and stayed at the WOW Istanbul Airport Hotel, a “5-star” hotel selected and paid for by my client, 1.6 miles from the airport. With a 6AM flight to Amsterdam, at 4 AM I was surprised that the hotels first shuttle was at 6:30 AM. So I took a taxi (at my expense), and the front desk staffer was nonplussed at my inconvenience and extra cost.

    I decided then that assessing the hotels ability and willingness to get me to the airport reliably was the top requirement.

  5. You mirrored my frustration with that hotel in particular and with all the hotels close to LAX in general. Peak hour transportation to the airport is very very poor.

    @jason, invoicing would be fine but how do you make them pay?

  6. It amazes me how many hotels seem determined to piss off customers through crappy shuttles. Presumably they see it as a necessary evil but why not do it right? Last weekend was at the Radisson Blu Mall of America, their shuttle runs until 9 pm. The next door Radisson runs after but won’t take Radisson Blu guests. Even the budget hotels in the area all have running airport shuttles. The explanation from premium hotel in the area, “Most of our arrivals are earlier and it is a 3rd party company, you can take a taxi or the light rail.”

  7. I have had that LAX experience multiple times. I HATE it. I have started taking shuttles close to my hotel from the Airport rather than wait longer, and simply walking. And I have waited for 2 full shuttles before as well going to LAX. The irony of this post is that Sheraton appears to have the most frequent shuttle service of all the hotels around – at least between 10 pm and midnight, when I’ve timed it.

  8. Gary,
    Thanks, nice to know that there is one reliable transportation hotel at LAX.

  9. “It amazes me how many hotels seem determined to piss off customers through crappy shuttles.” – Could not agree more. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I have waited *one hour* before to get an airport shuttle pick up. Everything is just so half-assed.

    Someone needs to create the Uber for airport shuttles. Just take away all the bullshit involved.

    I’ve stayed at the Sheraton LAX several times, and have walked to the airport every single time. Even going to the AA terminal, it’s not more than a 15 minute walk, which is probably less than would ever take you with the shuttle unless it were timed perfectly. I guess another advantage of not carrying an rollerboard…

  10. I mirror your frustration. And I shared your exact experience at the same hotel last month.
    In May, service from the LAX Marriott was only marginally better.

  11. I hate hotel airport shuttles because they are inevitably slow, at best. If it doesn’t materially raise my cost, I try to have a car even when I’m overnighting at an airport hotel to save time.

    I do recall not having a car at LAX and staying at the Embassy Suites. Their shuttle was slow and the front desk told me to take a taxi and they’d reimburse. That’s obviously the right thing to do if your running an airport hotel.

  12. Understand the frustration, but I’ve stayed at that Sheraton a handful (4-5) times, and I have never taken the shuttle. It’s not a long or complicated walk.

    That said, it’s short enough distance-wise that it shouldn’t be hard to have the continuous capacity to make it work. And I agree that it is silly to botch the one thing that people count on most.

  13. Like Ben Hughes I have walked to and from the Sheraton LAX. And I’ve done it with a rollerboard without incident. It’s about 15 minutes as noted and I get the exercise, which makes better use of my time.

    The Sheraton LAX is under new ownership this year. Some renovations underway (property is fine as it is for me…).

    Still at the top of my list at LAX. The easy walking backup to both the terminal and In n Out are keys.

  14. wow the sheraton is tired. Well the Westin is too. the Westin shuttle last week on my Hong Kong B-Day trip got stop by LAXPD for apparently stopping too close to the door of Terminal 1. I slipped out and walk to TBIT is there any good LAX hotel? heading back in August on AA A321T RT n 1st using miles get away.

  15. I stayed there a little while ago and had plenty of time so decided to talk a walk to Tom Bradly terminal. I had a long flight ahead of me and was doing it on purpose to get at least some movement before sitting for hours. It is not a short walk but doable and Bradley is one of the longer distances.

  16. Why not just walk to the terminal from the Sheraton? Unless you are packing heavy, its less than 5 mins to Terminal 1 and 10 mins to any terminal.

  17. @David-

    Walk up Century Boulevard from the hotel and that will lead you straight to Terminal 1.

    If you want to hit the South side terminals, turn left on Sepulveda. About halfway between the two overpasses is a little walkway to a park in the middle. Puts you right near the end of Terminal 7 / 8.

  18. The Hyatt Place LAX/El Segundo is on my blacklist. Even though I’m local and not visiting as a guest, I used to stop in because they have a free car charging station (I have a Volt). I would sit in their restaurant, do some work, order snacks or lunch, plus coffee. Every time I was there, no other cars were charging, and definitely not guests (who were mainly in rentals, which are never plug-ins).

    Then, the GM decides the charger is for guests only, or with a $10 fee! I did have a discussion with him, but he wouldn’t budge. I stopped coming in, and unbeknownst to him, I also influenced about 100 room nights away from his property for this year.

    Perhaps I should stop in and let him know. Someone who makes such a short-sighted decision doesn’t deserve my business.

  19. FWIW, I stayed at the Four Points LAX last month on a 16+ hr layover (arrived 6:30AM from Australia connecting to a domestic redeye that left at 10:45PM). In the past I’ve usually stayed at the Embassy Suites, but the Four Points has a 24-hour check-in feature available for certain rates (basically, Your24 for anyone paying an eligible rate). While this is an older property, the rooms were comfortable and reasonably updated, with the bathroom being the most obvious “budget” area (everything worked, but nothing would be mistaken for “fancy”). I had no problem getting several hours of sleep, which was the primary reason for my stay. Food in the restaurant was good and we even managed to have a swim in the pool. Their shuttle service is shared with the Westin and we had no problem getting picked up or dropped off fairly quickly, although that could have been due to our flight times. Staff was pretty friendly. Free high-speed wi-fi and bottled water. It’s not an ultra luxury property, but a good value for the price. I would stay there again. Thinking about other airports, the off-airport hotels at Paris CDG (Marriott, Millennium, Holiday Inn, etc.) are really bad when it comes to too-full shuttles at morning peak hours. If you are staying overnight at the airport in Paris, choose one of the on-airport properties like the Sheraton, Hilton, Sofitel, etc. I usually stay at the Hilton CDG for an overnight because it is next to the RER train station, which allows me to pop into the city for a nice dinner, plus they have some great corp rates.

  20. A large part of the problem here is LAX itself. It can take 45 min+ just to drive around the terminal from terminal 1 to 7 at peak times. I know that sounds bad but I’ve experienced it many times. If you add stops at several terminals, a round trip from the hotel can take an hour. How many shuttles does the hotel need then? For peak times to actually deliver 100 people in an hour they would need 10 shuttles assuming 10 per shuttle. That gets crazy expensive and the more shuttles they lay on the worse the traffic gets. What they need to do to redesign LAX and Century Blvd with an Airtrain.

  21. When I stay at this property I generally walk if I am going to or from Terminals 6, 7 or 1. It’s not a bad walk and probably doesn’t take any longer than the shuttle.

    What I’ve really hated is that twice when I’ve had IRROPS (once at CLT and once at IAD) the hotel puts you at a property where there are plenty of vans to take you to the hotel but surprise no vans to bring you back. All full. But some friends of the staff have a minivan shuttle that will take you for $20-25 per person.

  22. According to the current proposal floated by LAWA, a people mover will pretty much cut through the Sheraton, but naturally without a stop there. Of course at 1.5-2.5 billion this will never get built. My impression is that LAWA is going out of its way to propose ridiculous options for connecting LAX with the new Crenshaw line that’s currently being built; presumably they’re trying to protect some interests that do not want a sensible rail connection.

  23. Also, a few years ago I talked to a manager at the Courtyard Los Angeles Westside, who told me they used to have a shuttle to LAX but got rid of it because customers would see the hotel responsible whenever the shuttle failed. Now guests just take taxis and don’t blame the hotel.

  24. When in LA I prefer a taxi to a decent hotel.
    Usually a crazy non english speaking individual, kind of like an E ticket ride at Disney Land. But much better than sweating it out waiting and waiting for a shuttle, life is too short for that frustration.

  25. Gary – what’s a quick way to find the most recently renovated hotel when there’s none attached to the airport? Thanks.

  26. The Radisson, whilst not the best property, is walkable from all of the terminals. The Hyatt El Segundo has become my property of choice as the shuttle usually works fine, although it can be a wait. The cab is $21 to the hotel due to mad minimum charges in LAX. You can get the Green Line Shuttle bus, and then the Green Line and then walk if you need to get there. The Hyatt House is right next to a Green Line Station.
    It is worth checking where the shuttle stops before getting to your hotel. Sometimes a short walk can make you one of the first to board.

  27. I believe that the Marriott LAX has their own shuttle, one of very few around LAX that do not share with other nearby hotels. Worth a shot if you’d rather stay at a hotel with more ownership over airport transport.

  28. Yep, I’ve had the waiting experience twice at the Sheraton LAX. Since then I just walk. It’s about 15 minutes. I only recommend it if you have carry-on luggage, though.

  29. Excellent post! It should be illegal to call yourself an “airport hotel” if you don’t provide reliable airport transportation, or actually be on the airport property. I seldom spend the night at LAX, but so many places all over have unreliable shuttles, no shuttles, limited hours shuttles, once an hour shuttles.

    My practice now is that when I make a reservation at an unfamiliar airport hotel, I email or call the property and ask directly about their shuttle service. If I don’t get satisfactory answers I switch hotels if at all possible.

    Every self-identified airport hotel should offer at its website a proper description of its shuttle service (hours of operation, method of use – continuous loop, timings, by appointment, or when needed?) If there’s a charge, how much is it? So many websites just say “shuttle”, which is close to meaningless.

  30. I stay at the Radisson LAX and simply walk to/from the terminal. Not the greatest hotel, but the closest to the terminals. No shuttle, no problems.

  31. The last LAX hotel I stayed at was 4-Point Sheraton. No problems there. But as for a choice of LAX hotels without a rental car, I found the Embassy Suites South was great, but one has to call for the shuttle to pick you up at the airport. The Embassy Suite North is great too. That shuttle teams with the Hilton LAX, so everyone gets on and off there, giving an empty shuttle to and from (after the Hilton).

    For the HGI El Segundo, that’s a great hotel if on the top floor. I always had an ant problem with the lower floors, but that was 10 years ago, so I always stayed on the highest floor. You need a rent-a-car for that hotel, that way you can go to The Ralph’s up the street or drive to the restaurants in the area (like P.F. Changs, etc).

    As for JFK, my choice was Holiday Inn Express when it was 10,000 Priority Club Points. Check in, no bother by anyone, clean room, free B-fast, shuttle — you’re done. But now that’s like 30,000+ points which is ridiculous. Hilton JFK would be my choice too. HGI at JFK was awful when I stayed there.

    New York in general needs the entire population to go through a counseling in manners.

  32. The only place I’ve ever complained in writing about anything was the Hyatt Place FLL, and it was about the shuttle. It runs one per hour, that’s it. When I arrived a few minutes after 2200, I was in no mood to wait around, so I grabbed a cab. My friend (who arrived earlier) was watching her pennies so opted to wait forever.

    I was pissed. It’s night time. It’s dead. And I gotta wait while the driver smokes a cigarette?

  33. The Sheraton used to run their own shuttles, or if it was a contractor, at least it was dedicated to them; no more. The “shared buses” used by various hotels are a crock. Not only isn’t LAX less crowded, now there’s no accountability like this. I have almost stopped staying at LAX. Despite the drive, hotels away are the way to go, no matter how early your flight is.

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