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LAX expects 3.5 million leisure travelers when Omicron arrives

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Leisure travelers are expected to start slamming Los Angeles International Airport starting this week, with the airport estimating that it will see 3.5 million visitors between Thursday and January 3.

“Last year, 1.85 million passengers flew through LAX during this period, making this year almost twice as busy,” airport officials said in a news release Thursday.

This year’s figures appear to be almost returning to 2019 levels, when 4.5 million travelers used the airport during the last pre-pandemic holiday season.

The airport expects travel to peak on December 17, 19, 26 and January 2 with more than 200,000 travelers per day.

The increased volume was due to increased demand and traveler confidence regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, airport officials said.

“There are a lot of people who have been waiting to travel,” said Heath Montgomery, an LAX spokesman. “We keep hearing stories of families coming to visit from overseas and even domestically and meeting grandchildren for the first time that they have never met before.

“I think [travelers’] The overall level of confidence has gone up this year,” Montgomery said, although with the Omicron variant, “cautious optimism is where we are.”

The surge in travel coincides with a spike in COVID-related hospitalizations in the state over the past three weeks and a spike in new Omicron cases. Overall, during this time, COVID-19 hospitalizations increased 16% statewide and 39% in Los Angeles County, and Omicron was confirmed in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties.

With numbers surging, a new nationwide mandate for indoor masks went into effect on Wednesday.

“I think something that’s going to be important is that travelers take a little more personal responsibility to stay physically separate from people who aren’t part of their immediate traveling group,” Montgomery said, adding that the airport is doing the thorough cleaning have continued.

Omicron has already impacted parts of the travel industry, as travelers from outside the United States are now required to test negative for the coronavirus 24 hours before departure. Previous guidelines allowed a negative test up to three days before departure.

The surge in travelers also brings logistical hurdles for those hoping to board a flight to or from LAX.

“On our peak days, more than 90,000 vehicles could pass through the central terminal area each day,” Montgomery said. With the increased volume of passengers and traffic, people should take more time to get to the airport, he said.

And for travelers parking at the airport, which more and more people have been doing in recent months, Montgomery advises making reservations ahead of time, as almost all of LAX’s parking lots were filled during the Thanksgiving holiday season.

“Not only does this give you guaranteed parking for the duration of your stay and you know exactly where you’re going to park, but it also gives you a discounted rate,” depending on length of stay and parking space, he said. “I think that’s the most important thing people can do.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-12-16/lax-expects-surge-in-holiday-travelers-as-omicron-arrives LAX expects 3.5 million leisure travelers when Omicron arrives

Russell Falcon

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