Los Angeles International Airport is bracing for its busiest weekend since early 2020.

The airport hit a single-day, post-pandemic record of over 224,000 travelers on Thursday, the airport announced. “We expect the remainder of the Memorial Day travel period to continue to be extremely busy.”

LAX officials are anticipating 214,000 passengers on Friday, 205,000 on Monday, and 1.2 million total for the Memorial Day travel period (Thursday-Monday).

“Memorial Day weekend is just the start of what will be a very busy summer travel season at LAX where we expect passenger traffic to reach the highest levels we have seen in the past several years,” said Justin Erbacci, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports. 

Vehicle traffic in the Central Terminal Area also was expected to spike with more than 90,000 vehicles on Friday.

LAX suggests passengers arrive early, pre-book parking and order food and drinks ahead of time to pick up before they head to the gates.

2023 Memorial Day Weekend travel estimates.
2023 Memorial Day Weekend travel estimates. (Courtesy: LAX)

The number of people going through U.S. airports hit pandemic-era highs last weekend, and those records are almost certain to be broken over the Memorial Day holiday.

AAA predicts that 37 million Americans will drive at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home this weekend, an increase of more than 2 million from Memorial Day last year but still below pre-pandemic numbers in 2019. The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 10 million travelers between Friday and Monday, a 14% increase over the holiday in 2022 and slightly more than in 2019.

Airline industry officials say carriers have fixed problems that contributed to a surge in flight cancellations and delays last summer, when 52,000 flights were nixed from June through August. Airlines have hired about 30,000 workers since then, including thousands of pilots, and they are using bigger planes to reduce flights but not the number of seats.

“I don’t have the hubris to tell you exactly how the summer is going to go, but we have prepared and we have a robust plan for it,” said Andrew Watterson, chief operating officer at Southwest Airlines, which struggled at times over the summer of 2022 and suffered an epic meltdown around Christmas, canceling nearly 17,000 flights.

David Seymour, the chief operating officer of American Airlines, said his staff has fine-tuned a system it uses to predict the impact of storms on major airports and devise a plan for recovering from disruptions. He said it is reducing cancellations.

“It’s going to be a solid summer for us,” Seymour said.

In a report released last month, the Government Accountability Office blamed airlines for an increase in flight cancellations as travel recovered from the pandemic. It also said airlines are taking longer to recover from disruptions such as storms.