LAX international travelers hit mark not seen since pandemic’s start

Los Angeles International Airport saw more than 1 million international passengers in March, the first time its monthly tally has hit that mark since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, airport officials said Thursday.

The increase comes as both domestic and international air travel continues to rebound from the pandemic.

“We saw things trending upward over the course of the year,” Los Angeles World Airports Chief Executive Justin Erbacci said Thursday.

The international numbers seen last month are 206% above the passenger total of March 2021, according to data provided by Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX and Van Nuys Airport.

Meanwhile, domestic travel continues to expand at a rapid pace with 4.1 million passengers reported in March, up 82% over March 2021.

LAX saw 13.2 million total passengers between January and March, up 122% from the same time period last year.

In 2021, 48 million passengers traveled through LAX, down from 88 million in 2019.

The airport had estimated it would see 45 million to 46 million domestic and international passengers at LAX for the 2021-22 fiscal year, Erbacci said. To date, the airport has seen around 43 million passengers.

“We’re trending ahead of our forecasted numbers,” Erbacci said. “And we expect if things continue as we think they will we will easily exceed our forecasted passenger numbers.”

A full recovery in international numbers is hindered by still-stringent COVID-19 restrictions in Asia, Erbacci said, adding that travel between Europe and the U.S. has been stronger.

“We see increased travel from Asian countries because we are an Asian gateway and we depend heavily on those passengers,” Erbacci said.

Demand for European destinations has been strong enough for LAX to launch new routes to Paris and Frankfurt through “low-cost” international airlines this spring, Erbacci said, adding that budget carriers were among the first to resume such international routes.

Though passengers have largely returned, airlines are facing challenges in hiring enough pilots to meet the increased demand.

“You will have seen that most of the U.S. carriers have already canceled some of their flights that they had on the summer schedule,” Erbacci said.

“The demand is there to be strong, very strong, this summer, but I think that it will be limited by the supply that the airlines are able to provide,” he said.

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