LAX's busiest days of holiday travel season are here. Here's what to expect

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Monday, December 19, 2022
LAX's busiest days of holiday season are here. Here's what to expect
Airport officials advise travelers - and those driving them or expecting them - to plan ahead and leave plenty of extra time.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The peak holiday travel days are here.

As Christmas Day approaches, Los Angeles International Airport is expecting 200,000 passengers to pass through each day during the holiday travel season from Dec. 16 through Jan. 3.

Traffic around the Central Terminal Area is also expected to increase with as many as 89,000 vehicles in a single day from Dec. 19 - 21.

"A lot more people, and a lot more hectic than years before," said traveler Lilly Lane of Valencia. "I've traveled for 30 years and it's never been like this. Never."

Airport officials advise travelers - and those driving them or expecting them - to plan ahead and leave plenty of extra time. Parking, in particular, should be planned out in advance and reserved when possible.

"LAX wishes our guests, employees and partners a very happy holiday season as we create a smooth and enjoyable travel experience," said Justin Erbacci, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports. "We ask that you come to the airport prepared by planning your parking ahead of time and arriving early, especially if you are traveling with us on one of our peak travel days."

Christmas airport crowds can be trickier to predict than Thanksgiving crowds given that the holiday falls on a different weekday each year and that air travel patterns are often dictated by the workweek.

But just as the Sunday after Thanksgiving tends to draw huge crowds, the days just after Christmas are wildly popular. And much like how few people travel on Thanksgiving Day itself, relatively few people travel on Christmas Day or New Year's Day.

Here's a look at Christmas and the seven calendar dates before and after over the past three years, ranked by most to fewest average air travelers nationwide, based on TSA checkpoint data:

  • Dec. 27 (most crowded).
  • Dec. 23.
  • Dec. 20.
  • Dec. 26.
  • Dec. 30.
  • Dec. 19.
  • Dec. 29.
  • Dec. 22.
  • Dec 28.
  • Dec 21.
  • Dec. 18.
  • Jan. 1 (New Year's Day).
  • Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve).
  • Dec. 31 (New Year's Eve).
  • Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) (least crowded).

The 2022 holiday travel season will be different because Hanukkah, which begins on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, aligns closely with Christmas. While the eight-day celebration sometimes happens in November or early December, it begins this year on Dec. 18 and runs through Dec. 26.

There's also the weeklong celebration of Kwanzaa, which runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Thus, travelers during that period might be celebrating more than just Christmas, potentially concentrating more holiday crowds in airports than in other years.

What's more is that one of the busiest travel days of the year, Dec. 23 - the day before Christmas Eve - happens to fall on a Friday this year. Friday is typically the busiest travel day in any given week. Dec. 23 is not an official holiday, but many holiday travelers may leave on that day.

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


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