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Thursday, Jun 13, 2024

LAX’s Pandemic Recovery Remains Lackluster

As the new year began, the two-track recovery from the pandemic at local airports appeared to harden.

The three regional airports – Hollywood Burbank, Long Beach and Ontario International – recovered to pre-pandemic passenger traffic levels a few months back and have continued that performance through January. Ontario’s January total of 428,000 passengers outpaced January 2019’s total by 8%.

But the pace of recovery at Los Angeles International Airport remains stubbornly slow, with January’s passenger count of 5.45 million nearly 20% below 2019’s total. That’s somewhat better than a year ago, when the passenger tally was nearly 30% below pre-pandemic levels, but at this pace it will take another two years before passenger counts surpass 2019.

Terminal 1 LAX
A terminal at LAX.

International passenger traffic through LAX was once again a bright spot, jumping 83% from a year ago to 1.59 million travelers. But that was still 24% below 2019’s total.

On the domestic passenger side, which comprises a larger share of the LAX pie, growth was more modest, at 25% year over year, to 3.87 million. That tally was down 18% from the same month in 2019.

But looking ahead, airport officials were optimistic about passenger volumes for the spring travel season this month and next month. Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX, projected more than 12 million passengers going through the gates at LAX for the months of March and April combined, compared to about 10.6 million for the same two months last year.

“With the demand for travel set to increase this season, we look forward to sharing all the ways in which LAX has implemented new technology to make the passenger experience more seamless,” said Justin Erbacci, LAWA’s chief executive.

Ontario surges ahead

Turning to the regional airports, Ontario International saw nearly 429,000 passengers in January, up 26% from last year and 8% from 2019.

“January marked a positive start for 2023 as Ontario experienced strong demand for both domestic and international travel,” said Atif Elkadi, chief executive of the Ontario International Airport Authority. “The good news to begin 2023 follows our strong performance in 2022, during which we exceeded pre-pandemic passenger volumes in nine of 12 months and for the year overall.”

Hollywood Burbank Airport had nearly 406,000 passengers in January, up 27% from the same month last year, but virtually the same level as in January 2019.

Long Beach Airport posted a faster growth rate of 36% to 260,000 passengers, though that was a little shy of the 265,000 passengers that went through its gates four years ago.

Like her counterpart at LAX, Long Beach Airport Director Cynthia Guidry said she expects higher passenger volumes in the months ahead.

“With the addition of new supplemental flight slots, we expect stronger volumes starting in late spring and summer,” Guidry said.

Overall, the four local airports registered 6.55 million passengers in January, up 36% from the same month last year but down 16% from January 2019.

Howard Fine
Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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