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April Passenger Traffic at Burbank and Ontario Airports Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Levels; LAX Still Catching Up

Air traffic at local airports continued to rebound in April from pandemic-induced lows, with two surpassing pre-pandemic passenger counts and Los Angeles International edging closer to its pre-Covid level.

For the second straight month, the number of passengers at both Hollywood-Burbank and Ontario International airports in April surged past pre-lockdown April 2019 levels, by nearly 7% and 6%, respectively. The third regional airport, Long Beach, was not far behind, falling short of April 2019’s level by almost 8%.

Taken as a group, these three regional airports registered a 3% increase in passengers over their pre-pandemic levels. For perspective, just two years ago, during that spring 2020 pandemic lockdown, passenger traffic at these three airports plunged roughly 90% almost overnight.

The growth in passengers was most dramatic at Burbank, as the 513,000 tally in April was triple the number for the same month last year.
Ontario’s year-over-year passenger growth in April was slower than Burbank’s, but still considerable at nearly 60%.

“Demand for air travel through Ontario International remained strong in April as passengers took to the airways for spring break vacations and to visit friends and family for religious holidays,” Alan Wapner, president of the Ontario International Airport Authority’s board of commissioners, said in that airport’s announcement of April passenger totals.
LAX Closing the Gap

Thanks to its heavier reliance on international travel, which only recently began to rebound from pandemic restrictions, the region’s biggest airport, LAX, is still mired in a slump.
The April tally of 5.4 million was down 25% from April 2019, with international travel still down by 41%.

LAX is so big that this shortfall in passengers kept the cumulative passenger total at all four airports – 6.7 million – down 20% from pre-pandemic March 2019.
Yet even here, the trend line is pointing up. LAX’s April shortfall of 25% compared with pre-pandemic April 2019 was smaller than the comparable figures for March, which showed a drop of 29%.

That in turn was smaller than the 33% shortfall for February.
The biggest gains have been in international travel, which at 1.25 million passengers in April was nearly triple the level for the same month a year ago.

“The spring travel season showed a robust return to air travel at LAX, and we are especially excited to see our international traffic increase as we near the summer,” Justin
Erbacci, chief executive of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX, said in the airport announcement of the passenger totals.

Preliminary figures for May, however, indicate a slight pause in the return to pre-pandemic passenger counts at LAX.
According to figures from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, nearly 2.7 million passengers went through TSA checkpoints at LAX on their way to board aircraft, representing a 25% drop compared to May 2019 and matching the shortfall in the April comparison.

The passenger boarding figures do not take into account arriving passengers or passengers that don’t have to go through security checkpoints as they connect to other flights.
Erbacci acknowledged in his comments that the return to pre-pandemic norms may be more difficult in the months ahead.

“Although there are some headwinds to continued increases, including resource shortages and higher fuel prices, there also are plenty of signs that people are ready to travel,” he said.
In recent weeks, Fort Worth-based American Airlines Group Inc. announced resumption of nonstop flights between LAX and Vienna, Austria, while German airline Condor Flugdienst announced nonstop service between LAX and Frankfurt, Germany.

Paola Mendez
Paola Mendez
Paola Mendez graduated from Los Angeles Valley College, then transferred to University of California, and now serves as a Receptionist and Office Assistant to the Los Angeles Business Journal. Paola wears many hats in different departments and is trilingual in English, Spanish and French.
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