103,000 vehicles expected at LAX on Wednesday amid record Thanksgiving travel rush

Thursday, November 23, 2023
Major traffic at LAX as passengers leave before Thanksgiving
LAX officials predicted that Wednesday would be the busiest traffic day at the airport over the Thanksgiving travel period.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Getting in and out of Los Angeles International Airport was no easy task Wednesday, as thousands of holiday travelers flocked to the airfield for holiday getaways, and motorists were advised to get an early start if they're planning to hit the freeways.

Airport officials predicted that Wednesday would be the busiest traffic day at LAX over the holiday travel period, which began late last week and will continue through Sunday. An estimated 103,000 vehicles are expected at the airport Wednesday.

The next busiest day will be Sunday, when 98,000 vehicles are anticipated as people return home after the holiday.

LAX officials said a total of 2.5 million passengers are expected to pass through the airport during the period that began last Thursday and ends Sunday. That's just below the number that used the airport during the 2019 Thanksgiving period, prior to the pandemic. About 223,000 of those passengers are expected on Wednesday, one of the busiest days of the travel period, according to the airport.

On Sunday, 228,000 passengers are expected to flow through the airport.

Nationwide, about 2.7 million people are expected to board flights on Wednesday and millions more are planning to drive or take the train to Thanksgiving celebrations.

Airline officials say they are confident they can avoid the kind of massive disruptions that have marred past holiday seasons, such as the meltdown at Southwest Airlines over last Christmas. And as of mid-day Wednesday that appeared to be the case. U.S. airports were reporting only five flight cancellations and 364 flight delays, according to FlightAware, a tracking service.

AAA forecasts that 55.4 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home between next Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, with roads likely to be the most clogged on Wednesday.

Security lines at airports could be long. Delta Air Lines is telling passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their flight if they are traveling within the United States, three hours early if they're flying overseas - and maybe earlier on Sunday and Monday.

The Transportation Security Administration said it screened more than 2.6 million passengers Tuesday and it expected another 2.7 million passengers to come through airport security on Wednesday. On Sunday, it expects to screen 2.9 million passengers, which would surpass a previous record set on June 30.

Airlines have also added tens of thousands of employees in the last couple of years, and Southwest says it bought more winter equipment to keep planes moving even during sub-freezing temperatures.

AAA predicts that 55.4 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home between Wednesday and Sunday, the third-highest forecast ever by the auto club. AAA says most of them -- 49.1 million -- will drive.

Airfares in October were down 13% from last year, according to government figures, and fares around Thanksgiving have been about 14% lower than a year ago, according to the travel site Hopper.

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.