A Weekend in AvGeek Heaven: A Review of the H Hotel Los Angeles, Curio Collection by Hilton
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To The Point
This newish member of the Curio Collection is already coveted by airplane enthusiasts for its views. Pros: Proximity to the airport, nice roof deck, opportunities for stunning photos. Cons: Nondescript rooms and food — and, well, proximity to the airport.
Maybe you’re a frequent flyer with an aviation-geek bent, or maybe a full-fledged AvGeek, one of those people who think planespotting is fun and have a spate of flight-tracking apps on their phone. Either way, you may have heard of a recent addition to the ranks of hotels that attract aviation enthusiasts, the H Hotel Los Angeles, Curio Collection by Hilton. The H boasts a spectacular location very close to the runways at LAX, the stuff of dreams for airplane fanatics. For people who may not be AvGeeks but need a good place to crash on a long airport layover, the H is also an attractive choice, a reasonably priced member of the Hilton family on the doorstep of a mega-airport.
On a recent visit, the H proved to be not quite in keeping with the Curio brand, launched in 2014 around the idea of boutique, one-of-a-kind hotels like The Renwick in New York. The visual experience, the food and beverages and general vibe of the place struck me as a bit blander than the Curio brand statement, possibly because the H shares a building with a decidedly budget-oriented Homewood Suites.
But the views I went to the H Hotel for were spectacular.
Given that Hilton doesn’t maintain an award chart, it’s difficult to know how many points you’ll need on a given night unless you’re searching for it directly. According to Hilton’s site, though, you can expect to pay anywhere from 37,000 to 70,000 Honors points per night for an award stay. If you’re short on Hilton points, you can sign up for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which is offering 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
If you’d rather pay cash for your stay, rates hover around the $200-$225 mark, and if you aren’t pursuing status with Hilton, a great option is to book paid stays through Hotels.com/venture with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 10x points on Hotels.com spend. Hotels.com’s loyalty program also offers a free night at any hotel after paying for 10 nights, which combines to make it an effective 20% savings.
I was far more thrilled, speaking of status, to be upgraded from coach to lie-flat Delta One on my flight to LAX from New York-JFK. That is a rare event for Platinum Medallion elite flyers on this route, notoriously heavy with higher-tier Diamond Medallions and even Delta 360s, the airline’s invitation-only top elite level.
Situated just outside the airport, between LAX’s two sets of parallel runways, the H could not be more conveniently placed for travelers needing a hotel during a layover. Only a transit hotel right in one of the terminals would be closer. For aviation fanatics, the location is just about perfect, giving an unobstructed view of the north runways and a slightly less unimpeded but still good outlook on the southern ones.
Landing at LAX, you’ll easily see the building out of your airplane’s window, seconds before touchdown. The blue lightning patterns on all sides of the building are unmistakable. From any terminal, you can reach the hotel quickly with a ride on the free hotel shuttle, found right outside the arrivals levels.
That proximity is also what might keep you up at night if you’re not into the sound of jet engines. Winds blow mostly west to east at LAX, so noise gets carried right to your window, especially if you have a west-facing room.
From the hotel, it’s a 15-minute walk, tops, to the In-N-Out Burger, a place known to plane fanatics as a prime location for amazing closeup shots of landings. As a place to photograph airplanes, the In-N-Out is world-class. The burger I had with the Singapore Airlines 777 wasn’t bad either. Just make sure to go in the late afternoon if you want the best light; I went at midday, and was backlit the whole time.
Short version: No hassle, no frills, no wasting time.
The LAX shuttle dropped me off in front of the hotel, I walked through the sliding doors, and found the front desks for the H on my left and Homewood Suites to my right. The ground level is clearly built to ease the flow of weary, or hurried, passengers.
When I arrived early on a Friday afternoon, there was a very brief queue to check in.
After manually inputting my Honors number — I was hoping, perhaps, for a software glitch that might grant me points despite a third-party booking — I was on my way upstairs to my room. When it came time to check out, a three-hour extension of the deadline from noon to 3pm cost me $59, not exactly cheap.
Little AvGeek notes could be found throughout the lobby, from a sleek Concorde model in the snack-for-purchase area to hefty coffee-table books on aviation in a sitting area by the large glass windows.
I had asked to confirm that I would get a top floor facing the airport, and was accommodated easily. I got Room 1227, a deluxe king room, airport view, on the top floor, the 12th. The decor and furniture were streamlined, no-frills contemporary, but pretty bland overall. I’d expected something more unique from a hotel describing itself as “an elevated LA experience for sophisticated travelers.”
But the room was designed for efficiency, and that it did well. The abundance of power outlets was clearly designed for the modern traveler with several devices to charge.
In the bathroom, the shower was big and with just the right water pressure.
Without any place to buy groceries within reasonable walking distance and most guests staying for just one night, I would have expected to find a decently stocked minibar instead of an empty fridge. I also couldn’t make the Keurig coffeemaker work, but I’m sure that was user error. Overall, I really had no gripes with Room 1227 and its three windows overlooking the famous LAX sign and the airport.
Food and Beverage
Let’s be clear about the food options at the H: I was seriously underwhelmed. LA is one of the great foodie cities of America, and while the restaurant of an airport hotel may not be the place to sample the wonders of Southern Californian cuisine, I expected better than bland executions of unimaginative dishes.
You could either eat at the Waypoint restaurant on the ground floor or have room service, with the exact same menu. (Room service isn’t 24 hours; a self-serve mini-market in the lobby is.) At 7:30pm on Friday, I walked into a very loud Waypoint, waited a long time to be seated despite several open tables, ordered a hamburger with a side of sauteed spinach, and found it barely worthy of a passing grade: a home cook’s hurried weeknight burger. The next day, a rosemary roast chicken with bacon mashed potatoes was just as mediocre. The Tuscan scrambled eggs I had at breakfast, with sundried tomatoes and pesto olive oil, were unaccountably sweet. But without wheels and with a Subway sandwich shop the only other option on the premises, I was pretty much stuck with the Waypoint.
Next to that Subway, there was also Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Cafe, essentially a Starbucks clone, where I had a blueberry scone and an Americano coffee on Sunday morning for $6.30. As I ate looking at the airplane-inspired art on the walls, a group of middle-aged Brazilian tourists fumbled with gigantic paper cups, heat sleeves and lids: definitely not the cafezinho they might be used to at home. That was a good reminder that the H is very much a layover hotel, serving one of the few airports with nonstop flights to all inhabited continents — and therefore a good place to observe what happens when fast, cheap air travel brings different cultures together.
The big draw at the H was right there on the 12th floor: a roof deck on the north and east side of the building, overlooking the runways, the ideal location for planespotters. In the course of a couple of days hanging out there, I met a bunch of people from as far afield as the UK and Qatar who were there expressly for the airplanes.
The proximity to the planes landing on the north runways was remarkable. You didn’t need a giant telephoto lens to bring home amazingly close shots, and with any luck you could frame a giant wide-body jet like a Boeing 777 or an Airbus A380 against the backdrop of Downtown LA. There was no bar on the roof deck, but there were several outlets — the H definitely caters to people who need to keep their electronics charged. And I often had all this AvGeek bounty all to myself!
The small gym on the 12th floor looked out to the north as well, and you could work out in full view of landing planes. You could swim, too, at a small pool the H and Homewood Suites share on the ground level. It was heated but open-air.
The fast, stable, free hotel Wi-Fi never let me down, and even the basic option for non-elite Honors members was fast enough to stream video. The real star in the technology department, though, was Hannah, a robot that delivered small items to rooms. I found out about her existence (I’m choosing to assign Hannah a gender, like the hotel did) when I bumped into her randomly on the elevator, and followed her to the charging station by the front desk.
I know I’ll be back for a midwinter visit to the H, when the Los Angeles haze is likely to be less of a nuisance to photographers. But in the meantime, I would book the H again if on a long layover at LAX, just for the terrace. People not as into aviation as a TPG editor can look into other, terrace-less options just as close to LAX.
True, I was expecting more character from the hotel, but I did not leave disappointed. Waiting at the LAX Sky Club for my flight back to New York, looking through my shots from the weekend, I was happy. I will gladly trade personality any day in exchange for photos like the one below, taken as the sun was setting over the Pacific. You don’t need to be crazy about airplanes to see that, in the right light, the terrace of the H Hotel can inspire moods you won’t forget.
All images by the author, except where noted.
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