LAX sees 1 million international travelers per month for the first time since the start of the pandemic

The number of international passengers passing through LAX last month rose 206% over the previous year, according to Los Angeles World Airports. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles International Airport welcomed more than one million international passengers in March, the first time its monthly tally reached that level since the pandemic began in 2020, airport officials said Thursday.

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

“We’ve seen an upward trend over the year,” Los Angeles World Airports general manager Justin Erbacci said Thursday.

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

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

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

In 2021, 48 million passengers passed through LAX, compared to 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 handled approximately 43 million passengers.

“We are ahead of our forecast numbers,” Erbacci said. “And we expect that if things continue as we think they will, we will easily exceed the expected number of passengers.”

A full recovery in international numbers is being hampered by still-tight COVID-19 restrictions in Asia, Erbacci said, adding that travel between Europe and the United States has been stronger.

“We are seeing an increase in travel from Asian countries because we are an Asian gateway and we rely heavily on those passengers,” Erbacci said.

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

Although passengers have largely returned, airlines are struggling to hire enough pilots to meet increased demand.

“You will have seen that most US 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 it will be limited by the supply that the airlines are able to provide,” he said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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