Getting to the airport is never an easy feat. Fortunately, Los Angeles has many options to get to LAX. There are remote airport lots, if you feel like paying an arm and a leg to have your car sleep there. Or you could sweet talk a friend into picking you up, but that could result in waiting for hours while your driver nurses a hangover. Better yet, you could lend your car to someone so they can pick you up, only to have them crash your car.
Well, I never said Los Angeles has many good options.
Being the car-free commuter that I am, it’s my preference to explore the green options to get to LAX. I first tried SuperShuttle, a vanpooling service, a few months back to get to and from LAX for a trip to Houston. I needed to get to the airport during the morning rush hour on a Thursday. I ethically could never ask even my dearest friend to take me all the way to El Segundo during the week’s worst gridlock. I was very satisfied with SuperShuttle. It was affordable, reliable, and I didn’t have to blackmail anyone for a ride.
Recently, I took a trip to Portland with several friends. I didn’t even consider any other method to get to LAX besides SuperShuttle. I asked two of my travel companions if they were going to do the same. Their plan was to take the LAX Flyaway Shuttle from Union Station. They both swore by the Flyaway Shuttle, and their argument was convincing. The Flyaway was also really cheap, convenient and reliable.
But which airport shuttle is the better option?
Instead of joining them on the Flyaway Shuttle, I decided to keep my SuperShuttle reservation and compare our experiences.
Getting to the Airport
My big draw with SuperShuttle is that it’s door-to-door service. The last thing I want to do is haul my luggage a half mile to the purple line station. And what if the train is on a maintenance schedule? What if it’s operating under early morning or late night hours?
When I made my reservation, I was told I’d be picked up between 6:00-6:15 for a 9:30 a.m. flight. Oof, that’s awfully early, but no worries. Better to get to the airport with time to spare, right?
I just finished a cup of Earl Grey on the morning of the flight when I received a text at 5:51 to let me know that my SuperShuttle is outside waiting. WHAT!? But my shuttle isn’t supposed to arrive for another nine minutes! I quickly grabbed my bag and headed downstairs without brushing my teeth, packing my hairbrush or grabbing a protein bar for breakfast. This was obviously less than pleasing. I was getting prepared to be ready at 6:00, per my reservation. Nine minutes means a lot at that early hour. And c’mon, this is Los Angeles. It’s never acceptable to be early for anything! Side bar: This is actually the second time SuperShuttle has been about ten minutes early for an early morning pickup.
Meanwhile, my travel companions were able to sleep in and leisurely enjoy their morning coffee. They called a Lyft around 6:45 to take them to Union Station, where they would catch the LAX Flyaway. No reservations were required. Little planning was needed, as the Flyaway leaves every 20 minutes. The website for the Flyaway even has a detailed map to show riders the pickup location.
When we first discussed how we were getting to the airport, my friends mentioned they would probably take a bus to get to Union Station. That is what turned me off the most. I didn’t like the thought of having to catch a bus that early when they aren’t running very often. Ordering a Lyft eliminates that, but how does that affect the cost?
Every time I’ve taken SuperShuttle, the cost has been between $25-$30 each way. Not too bad, I suppose. This time was no different. It was $26 each way, plus gratuity, bringing my total to about $60 round trip. Yikes! That’s much more money when totaled up that way. At that cost, I could take a Lyft or even a cab directly to the airport.
The Flyaway Shuttle, on the other hand, is $8 from Union Station to LAX. Sure, the cost increases when factoring in the Lyft ride to avoid an early morning bus ride. I don’t know exactly what my friends paid to get from Silverlake to Union Station, but for the sake of argument I’m going to guess it was around $12. That would make their round trip total to be approximately $28 each. That’s about half of what I paid.
We returned from Portland on Monday afternoon around 4:00 p.m. My friends and I deplaned and headed towards the ground transportation zone at LAX.
I checked in with the SuperShuttle representative by 4:09. I waited approximately 15 minutes for my shuttle to arrive. It was a full house, with only one seat remaining. I was fortunate enough to be the first passenger to get dropped off. I was home and on the couch by 5:15. Not too bad.
My travel buddies had a hassle free experience taking the Flyaway Shuttle back to Union Station. They caught a Lyft home the rest of the way, and made it home minutes before me. I say it was about and even experience, but I’m sure I’d be singing a different tune if SuperShuttle dropped me off last.
So, SuperShuttle or LAX Flyaway Shuttle?
Doing a side-by-side comparison of the two shuttle services makes me regret my choice to take SuperShuttle instead of the LAX Flyaway. I could have budgeted my time accordingly and have been able to be ready and packed when needed. I also would have saved a couple of bucks, even if I chose to get to Union Station via Lyft. I’ll definitely be taking the Flyaway the next time I travel.