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With holiday, LAX has heaviest passenger traffic of 2021 so far

People wearing masks and pulling luggage line up at an airport entrance.
Travelers wait to check in for their flights at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles International Airport broke a 2021 record for passenger traffic Friday, with more than 78,000 travelers going through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, the airport announced.

“That is by far and away the busiest that we have been in the last year-plus. It was notable,” said Heath Montgomery, a spokesman for LAX. “I think Sunday has a chance of setting another record. We’ll have to see.”

Memorial Day weekend, which marks the unofficial start of summer travel, is typically a busy one, airport officials said. This year, the holiday comes as the region continues to unwind coronavirus restrictions and many people are eager to get out again.

“We are seeing passenger numbers rise quickly as the demand for air travel surges across the U.S.,” Justin Erbacci, chief executive officer of Los Angeles World Airports, said in a statement, “so we want to make sure our guests know they will be returning to an airport that is bustling with travelers and at times experiencing heavy traffic.”

May has been the busiest month for LAX since early 2020, with about 61,400 passengers at TSA checkpoints each day, Los Angeles World Airports said in a news release. Although that’s only 53% of the daily passenger traffic seen during the same period in 2019, it’s been increasing each week, said the agency, which owns and operates Los Angeles International and Van Nuys airports.

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Officials are bracing for massive crowds at Southern California beaches this Memorial Day weekend.

Before Friday, 2021’s busiest day for passenger traffic was May 23, when 74,881 passengers passed through TSA checkpoints, representing about 70% of the traffic seen during the same time in 2019, according to LAWA.

The airport parking garages have been particularly busy in the mornings, and officials warned they might fill up over the holiday weekend. People can check how many spaces are available at each garage on LAX’s website.

Travelers were advised to arrive at least two hours before flight departure — three hours for an international flight — to account for delays caused by the congestion, as well as ongoing airport construction.

LAX is undergoing a multiyear, $14.5-billion modernization effort that includes a recently unveiled expansion of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, as well as plans for a people mover that will connect the airport terminals to the region’s rail system and to a centralized rental car facility. The entire effort is expected to be completed by 2023.

“It’s been a long year, and to see people coming back to the airport is a great change of pace,” Montgomery said. “At the same time, there are a lot of people coming back for the first time in a while, and they need to remember that LAX is very much an active construction site, and so there could be more traffic than people are used to.”

Times staff writer Hugo Martín contributed to this report.


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