Getting in and out of Los Angeles International Airport was no easy task on 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, Nov. 22, would be the busiest traffic day at LAX over the holiday travel period, which actually began late last week and will continue through Sunday, Nov. 26. 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.
The Auto Club of Southern California estimated that 4.6 million Southern Californians will travel for the holiday, a 3% increase from last year’s record-setting travel number and a 3.5% increase from the pre-pandemic Thanksgiving holiday. Nationally, the Auto Club is predicting the Thanksgiving holiday to be the third busiest on record, with 55.4 million people expected to travel. That’s below only 58.6 million who traveled in 2005 and 56 million in 2019.
Of the 4.6 million Southern Californians predicted to travel for the holiday, 3.9 million of them are expected to travel by car, while 566,000 will fly and 120,000 will be taking a bus, train or cruise. The top destinations are expected to be Las Vegas, San Diego, Santa Barabara/Central Coast, the Grand Canyon and Mexico cruises or resorts, according to the Auto Club.
“Thanksgiving is one of the more popular holidays for people to travel to see family and friends so they can take part in annual traditions like turkey dinners and Black Friday shopping,” Jenna Miller, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services, said in a statement. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving travel forecast reflects people’s ongoing desire to get away and spend time with their loved ones.”
The Auto Club defines the holiday travel period as the five days from Wednesday, Nov. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 26.
Citing figures from the transportation analytics firm INRIX, the Auto Club reported that Wednesday afternoon and evening will be the busiest time on Southland freeways. The stretch of the northbound Golden State (5) Freeway between Los Angeles and Bakersfield will be particularly busy, with the drive expected to take about three hours, or roughly 88% longer than usual, according to INRIX.