When I originally booked this trip it was just a quick weekend in Hong Kong over Chinese New Year, courtesy of some first class award availability being released in advance by Cathay Pacific, although things evolved drastically over the course of a couple months. My flight was scheduled to depart at 8:25 am, so I decided to spend the night in LA to ensure a stress free morning. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than waking up at 4:00am to start a journey. This way I would arrive in LA the night prior and be well rested for my 16 hour flight to Asia. It would also allow ample time to visit the Qantas first class lounge before the flight (a lounge that has been praised by many bloggers).
Los Angeles airport has no shortage of mediocre airport hotels. I started by narrowing my search to Starwood and Marriott properties, to guarantee I would get some use out of my elite status compliments of my American Express Platinum Card. Generally I consider Marriott status to be more rewarding, but the airport options (that weren’t sold out) looked…shabby. I decided to book the Sheraton Gateway LAX as it had recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation and reviews were generally positive of the revamped property.
Rates at this hotel are highly variable, as is the case with most airport hotels. Sadly the best available rate was nearly $300USD for my Friday night stay, so it was a no-brainer to use SPG points this time. Free nights start at 10,000 points per night for a standard, recently renovated room, which is fairly decent value considering the paid rates.
When checking other random dates I did see some dates in the sub-$200 range, at which point it would probably be wiser to pay for the stay and save your points for a higher value redemption somewhere else.
My flight from Seattle arrived safely at LAX 15 minutes early at gate 64a. Although I wont be reviewing the domestic flights on this trip, I would like to say that Alaska exceeded my expectations, both in service and quality. Although the seat pitch is criticized by many, the service is miles ahead of other North American carriers and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them for domestic travel. The nighttime views of the city were fantastic on approach to the airport.
LAX isn’t my favourite airport in North America. In fact, it could be my least favourite airport. I find the terminals dark, busy, loud, ugly, and generally unpleasant to all of the senses. Thankfully it was a short walk to the curb where there were clear signs for the airport shuttle pick-ups. Naturally, the Sheraton shuttle was pulling away just as I exited the terminal, but another would be by in less than 10 minutes, which has to be a record (I usually have the worst luck with airport shuttles). The driver was very friendly, and the bus had only 3 other passengers. I generally dislike airport shuttles, especially after long flights, but this was as pleasant as it could be for the short 5 minute drive to the hotel.
My first impression of the Sherton was that it was large. As in very large. Any hopes I had for a bespoke travel experience were diminished when we pulled up to what must be the biggest airport hotel I’ve ever seen (or maybe those hopes were diminished curb-side waiting for the shuttle).
For those traveling with pets, this hotel is pet-friendly, but does impose a $50USD fee per stay, which seems steep considering most airport hotel stays are limited to one night. However, the hotel does provide dogs bags and well marked areas for bathroom breaks.
I’m not sure if it was because it was Friday night, or there was a convention (or two), or both, but the lobby was absolutely packed. I was getting over a cold and somewhat tired, otherwise the people watching would have been spectacular. Thankfully the dedicated SPG Gold/Platinum line was empty and I was on my way to the room in less than 5 minutes. As a Gold elite member, I had the choice of a welcome drink or 250 bonus SPG points. I chose the points this time. The elevators were directly beside the reception desk, with approximately 15,000 people waiting at any given moment.
Despite the crowds, the elevators were quick, and it wasn’t too long before I was on the 14th floor. I was at the end of the hall in a corner room, which was about a 90 second walk from the elevators. I usually appreciate a room closer to the elevators, but tonight I was glad to be tucked away in the corner. The hallways were quite dark and felt cavernous. Not sure if they were included in the multi-million dollar renovation…..
My room was at the end of the hall facing the back of the hotel. I had requested an airport view, which I got, but it was mainly of a parking lot.
Sometimes I think I’m spoiled having the Fairmont at my home airport in Vancouver, and other transit hotels have a tough time competing. The room was quite large and in beautiful condition and it was now obvious where they spent a lot of money during the renovation, as everything in the room felt new.
Directly inside the door to the right was a large closet and mirror, with a short hallway to a small and functional bathroom.
The closet housed a single robe, which was plush and comfortable. It also had a small luggage rack and multiple hangers, although I wonder how many people unpack at an airport hotel…
It was nice to see a large walk-in shower replace the old tub/shower combo. I’m sure bathtubs are beneficial for families traveling with small children, but there’s something about airport hotel bathrooms that gross me out enough that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a relaxing bath. The shower was large and finished very well for a Sheraton, and the water pressure was fantastic!
The bathroom was on the small side, with the toilet directly between the shower and sink. It was perfectly adequate for myself traveling alone, but I could see a couple or small family struggling to get ready at the same time, which is something to consider when needing to catch an early flight.
Amenities were quite basic, and not particularly high quality, although perfectly fine for one use, and the bathroom towels were soft and plentiful. One thing I really appreciate are the individually wrapped plastic cups! Although not the most environmentally friendly, I’ve seen too many news reports of shoddy housekeeping practices involving bathroom glassware. In such a transient hotel it’s nice to know the cup is new and clean.
The main part of the room felt really fresh and I definitely liked the design! Sometimes I find Sheraton hotels a little too ‘business’ for my tastes, but this hotel felt contemporary and luxurious. The room was advertised as only 281 square feet but felt much larger. I really liked the color scheme, especially the dark blues with the wood. I found the lighting to be somewhat dim, but did like the lamps!
The window on the far wall featured views of the airport and parking lot and was surprisingly quiet considering how close the hotel is to LAX. The curtains were blackout and very effective, although not electronically controlled which seems to be the norm in new hotels. There was a large couch in front of the window with a cool wood table which acted as a separator, and could be removed if you wanted to lounge.
The desk area was large and spacious and featured multiple power ports. I’m glad Sheraton decided to keep the desk in the renovated room. Marriott has started to remove desks from their new and remodelled rooms to save space, as was the case at the Marriott Skycity Hong Kong hotel, which is disappointing.
There is no minibar in the room, although room service is available around the clock. I don’t normally care about the minibar but find them more convenient at airport hotels. Although the hotel offers a wide range of food and beverage options for in-room dining, I found the prices expensive for what they were and decided instead to enjoy the two bottles of complimentary water only.
The room was equipped with a single serve coffee maker with a selection of teas and Starbucks coffee. It also had an empty fridge for any food and beverage needing to be kept cold.
The television was large and new, and featured a wide variety of channels. Underneath the TV was the empty fridge, as well as other standard room amenities, including ice bucket and the in-room safe, which wasn’t quite large enough to fit my 15″ MacBook Pro.
The Sheraton Gateway hotel was perfectly fine for a one night stay near the airport. Would I want to stay here for an extended period? Probably not. I liked the fresh, contemporary styling of the guest rooms, the large walk-in shower, and the comfortable Sheraton Sleeper Bed. I can appreciate the hotel is trying to be pet-friendly, although find the mandatory ‘deep cleaning’ fee borderline obscene for short stays. On the other hand, I didn’t like the convention-like atmosphere, long waits for the elevator, and overall transient vibe (although that’s really unavoidable in airport hotels). The crowd certainly made for some interesting people watching, from middle-management businessmen to wannabe LA trendsetters.
For 10,000 SPG points per night I found this hotel to be very decent value, although I wouldn’t have been as satisfied paying $300 per night. Given the options near LAX, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this property for a short stopover or as a place to crash before an early flight.