Memorial Day weekend travelers have already set a new 2021 record at Los Angeles International Airport, with more than 78,000 people passing through Transportation Security Administration on Friday alone, according to airport officials.
With travel plans long-delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 37 million people were expected to travel from May 27 through May 31, a 60% increase from last year's record-low of 23 million travelers, according to data from the American Automobile Association.
Even before the holiday, May was already the busiest month at LAX since early 2020 before the onset of the pandemic, with an average of 61,400 passengers passing through security checkpoints each day.
That is only about half of the passenger volume from the same period in 2019, but airport officials said it is still significantly higher than it has been during the pandemic and increasing every week.
LAX officials said the terminals are busy, and on Sunday they reminded travelers to arrive two hours early to be sure they don't miss their flight.
“We are seeing passenger numbers rise quickly as the demand for air travel surges across the U.S., 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,” Justin Erbacci, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that oversees LAX, said earlier this week.
“LAX is ready and excited to welcome back our guests to an airport that is safe and clean with new technology and amenities that offer a more touchless passenger experience.”
LAX officials did not release any passenger projections for the Memorial Day weekend. But the Automobile Club of Southern California this month predicted that more than 2.8 million Southern California residents will be traveling over the holiday weekend, up 64% from last year.
Nearly 90% of all travelers are expected to drive to their destinations, but about 9% -- roughly 269,000 people -- will fly.
“These holiday getaway numbers are very encouraging, and we expect travel to continue to strengthen once cruising and other options reopen,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club's vice president for travel.
“Because COVID-19 restrictions can vary widely from place to place and can change quickly, the Auto Club strongly recommends getting travel insurance and working with a AAA travel adviser.”
According to the Auto Club, the top destinations for Southern California travelers are expected to be Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park, San Diego and Yosemite National Park.