92,000 travelers passed through LAX on Friday, marking busiest day of the past year

Amy Powell Image
Sunday, July 4, 2021
4th of July weekend travel: 92K travelers passed through LAX on Friday
More than 92,000 travelers passed through Los Angeles Airport on Friday, marking the facility's busiest day of the last year, officials said.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- More than 92,000 travelers passed through Los Angeles Airport on Friday, marking the facility's busiest day of the last year, officials said.

"More people means getting here early, planning for parking and considering alternatives to driving," LAX said Saturday on Twitter. "Let's all remember what summer travel is like and plan accordingly!"

Even before Friday's figures were released, experts predicted that travel this long holiday weekend would be busy -- and not only by pandemic standards. Experts expect it will rival the busiest Independence Day weekend of the pre-coronavirus era.

Air travel at some vacation hot spots was already exceeding pre-pandemic levels, the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday. Officials launched a campaign to hire 6,000 workers, and the agency said it will continue staffing up through Labor Day.

July 4 travel kicked off with one of the busiest days at airports in 16 months.

The TSA reported screening 2,147,090 passengers on Thursday. That number fell just short of the record-setting 2.17 million screened last Sunday. TSA said it expects that record "to be outpaced over the holiday weekend."

Packed planes

Planes are nearly full. Ultra-low-cost carriers, which specialize in shuttling people to vacation destinations, expect to see "load factors in the 90s," said Chris Brown, a vice president at the National Air Carriers Association.

Airlines for America, representing the largest US airlines, said flights were 89% full last week -- compared to 90% in the same week of 2019.

Some of the return is driven by passengers using flight credits from trips canceled during the pandemic.

Traveling for Fourth of July? What you need to know before going to LAX

Los Angeles International Airport officials have some timely advice for those flying out for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines said their schedules and staffing have been thrown off by the growing demand and weather. Data from the aviation website FlightAware show Southwest canceled or delayed 39,728 flights last month -- the most of any US airline. The data showed American canceled or delayed 36,714 flights.

Southwest has pleaded with flight attendants to pick up extra trips and offered twice the usual pay. It said in a memo obtained by CNN that "adverse weather conditions" have put crews out of position for the next flight, and it said fewer flights between cities has made it harder to reposition crew members.

"If you are healthy and it is safe to do so, please help your fellow Cohearts by picking up available shifts," wrote Southwest executive vice president Alan Kasher.

American said it would preemptively trim 1% of flights from its schedule through mid-July, citing bad weather and staffing shortages. The advance changes mean "impacting the fewest number of customers" and rebooking them.

Travelers taking the train instead will see more service from Amtrak. It recently began running more trains up and down the East coast and restored pre-pandemic service to dining on long distance routes in the West.

No matter how travelers head out, they should pack their patience, experts say.

"You're going to have a lot of company on the road and in the skies and around you at all times," said Gross, of AAA. "So just expect it won't always be the smoothest, but you're going to get there and you're going to have fun."

The unruly skies

As passenger numbers climb, so do reports of passengers refusing to follow crew instructions, or even turning violent.

The Federal Aviation Administration has received more than 3,200 reports of unruly passengers this year, and opened 491 investigations. On average over the last 15 years, FAA has opened about 180 investigations annually, and officials say the number of reports filed was never large enough to warrant tallying.

"Now the public is coming back and getting out and treating flight attendants as punching bags, and they're doing that verbally and physically," said Nelson of the flight attendant union.

"Conflict is rising very quickly," she added. "Everyone's at a stress level 10. Everyone needs a little help right now and we're asking everyone be a helper."

Airlines that faced an uncertain future last summer are seeing passengers return in droves. United Airlines told CNN that even with business and international travel depressed, Thursday is the busiest travel day it has seen since the pandemic began.

"Leisure demand is more than 100%," United CEO Scott Kirby told CNN. "The recovery indicates the huge desire for people to get back to living life."

CNN Wire contributed to this report.