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Midwest snowstorm slows down LAX traffic

December 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The mad dash for busy holiday travel kicks off Friday, yet travelers at LAX are already feeling the Christmas crunch.

Mike Eaton was on his way to Los Angeles from Atlanta but got caught in the mess hitting the Midwest. Hundreds of flights have been canceled in and out of several airports due to the area's first big snowstorm.

"I had to wait 45 minutes to see somebody to change my next flight from Atlanta," said Eaton.

American Airlines canceled all of its flights in and out of Chicago O'Hare Thursday evening. At Chicago Midway International Airport, Southwest Airlines canceled all flights after 4 p.m. local time. The same situation affected travelers elsewhere in the Midwest.

"This is the first real snow situation that we've had this season," said Ryan McAdams, the public relations coordinator for Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport. "Our crews have been working throughout the summer and into the fall and winter preparing for it. So we had full crews ready to go, ready to take to the runways to make sure they are clean and safe."

The sun was shining and traffic was light at LAX Thursday, but officials say that's about to change.

The 13-day holiday travel season begins Friday and continues through January 2, 2013.

An estimated 2.2 million travelers will board planes at LAX. That's a little more than a 5 percent increase compared to 2011.

"We will basically have 180,000 passengers going through on each day of the 13-day holiday period," said Arif Alikhan, deputy executive director for Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).

At a news conference held Thursday afternoon, LAX authorities shared tips to help travelers avoid frustration and get out of town without a hitch during the busy holiday travel season.

To help passengers with their travel experience, extra airport employees were hired. In addition to customer service representatives, additional airport volunteers will be roaming LAX terminals in red vests to assist travelers and answer any last-minute questions.

Airport officials advised passengers traveling with domestic airlines to avoid the wait in line at the airport by checking in online.

Airport police Chief Patrick Gannon said police will remain patrolling the area to ensure passenger safety. Law enforcement is promoting its "hide it, lock it, keep it" campaign.

"During this time, the public will continue to see enhanced deployment of officers on foot beats, in police cars, on 3-wheel vehicles and on bicycles," said Gannon. "You'll see K-9 units throughout the terminal areas."

Travelers were also advised to arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international trips. Check on your flight status before leaving home. Lastly, make sure your carry-ons meet airline requirements.


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