Photos: Travel and testing ramp up as Omicron surge hits California during the holidays

A boy holds up a sign saying Welcome Home Dad inside a car with a balloon out the window
Liam Risinger, 8, center, shown with brother Zakary, 13, and mother, Heather, as they pick up their father, Karl Risinger, who has been away for two-and-a-half months working in Canada, at Los Angeles International Airport.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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What happens when you have a surging Omicron variant and a busy travel season?

Trouble.

As many as 3.5 million people are projected to travel through Los Angeles International Airport from Dec. 16-Jan. 3, according to airport officials, making it the busiest travel period this year. By many accounts, airlines and airports have not absorbed the rebound very well so far, with staffing shortages, shifting safety protocols and rowdy passengers bogging down travel.

Now, with the Omicron variant spreading quickly and many travelers determined to forge ahead with holiday plans, months of preparation by airlines and airport staff will face a test at large airports such as LAX.

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Testing is also ramping up as families and friend get together over the Christmas holidays.

Passengers exit the customs and baggage claim area at Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Passengers exit the customs and baggage claim area at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Martina Sung, left, greets her grandson Heinrich Sung, who is visiting from Europe.
Martina Sung, left, of Los Angeles, greets her grandson Heinrich Sung, 7, who is visiting from Europe, at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Stefano Agosto waits for his sister Caterina Agosto as she exits customs and baggage claim area.
Stefano Agosto of Culver City waits for his sister Caterina Agosto, who arrived from Italy, at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal on Wednesday.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A person receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Los Angeles International Airport.
A person receives a COVID-19 vaccination at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal on Wednesday. Free vaccinations and booster shots are offered on-site through L.A. County Department of Public Health.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Sun Yun waits for his girlfriend to arrive at Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Sun Yun of Irvine waits for his girlfriend to arrive Wednesday at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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Tina Lord, left, greets her son Elliot Wrigley, visiting from London, at Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Tina Lord, left, greets her son Elliot Wrigley, 13, visiting from London, at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal on Wednesday.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A healthcare worker hands a COVID-19 test kit to someone in a car
A healthcare worker hands a COVID-19 test kit at a drive-through testing site at La Sierra Park in Riverside.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“Rapidly, Omicron is overtaking Delta. I would say within the next two weeks, it’s almost all going to Omicron.”

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer

A man swabs his nose near Christmas decorations.
A man swabs his nose at a Union Station COVID testing kiosk on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)
Drivers seeking COVID tests line up at a drive-though site in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium
People seeking COVID tests line up to access a site in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

“We are experiencing the surge that we have been anticipating was coming.”

San Francisco Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax

Travelers wait for their holiday flights in an airport
Travelers wait for their holiday flights at John Wayne Airport.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)
A woman with luggage picks up a COVID-19 test self-collection kit at John Wayne Airport
Holly Goodwin, of Garden Gove, picks up a free COVID-19 test self-collection kit from the Orange County Health Care Agency after arriving on a flight Tuesday at John Wayne Airport.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)
Passengers in the arrival deck wait for shuttles at Los Angeles International Airport
Passengers in the arrival deck wait for shuttles at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)
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