Thousands of travelers descended on Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday as the Thanksgiving travel season kicked into high gear, and passengers were met with plenty of security amid a heightened alert prompted by the terror attacks in Paris.
Armed police officers had a particularly visible presence around LAX as travelers braved particularly long lines and busy airport roads to make their flights.
Nico Melendez, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said travelers can help ease waits at the airport if they are prepared and properly packed.
“We anticipate a significant increase in the number of people traveling, both nationwide and locally, probably about a 40 percent increase, so people should make sure they know what is allowed on an airplane and what is not allowed,” Melendez told City News Service.
“We have not announced any increase in security, but we want people to know that the men and women at TSA are always on a heightened state of alert for any security problems they might encounter,” he said.
A record 2.1 million passengers are expected to pass through LAX over the 11-day Thanksgiving holiday travel period that began late last week, a jump of 6.9 percent over last year’s record of 1.96 million passengers.
Airport officials said they estimate 205,000 passengers to pass through the airport today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then jump to 219,000 on Monday.
An estimated 197,000 travelers are expected at the airport today. Tomorrow and Friday will be the slowest days, with 147,000 and 170,000 passengers, respectively. Things will pick up again over the weekend and particularly on Monday, when 219,000 people are expected at the airport.
The Thanksgiving travel season comes amid a worldwide travel alert issued by the U.S. State Department “due to increased terrorist threats” and in response to the recent deadly attacks in Paris.
The alert, which does not suggest that people should cancel travel plans, notes that ISIS and other terrorist groups “continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions,” and advises travelers to exercise caution while in public places or using public transportation and to be aware of their surroundings.
The alert will remain in effect until Feb. 24.
About 3.54 million residents of Southern California are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home during the Thanksgiving travel period.
Around the state, the number of holiday travelers is projected to be 5.7 million, an increase of only six-tenths of 1 percent from last year, the Automobile Club of Southern California said, attributing the lack of significant movement in the figures to lower-than-expected job and economic growth.
Still, the number of local residents projected to travel at least 50 miles from home between today and Sunday is the highest for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2007, when 4 million Southern Californians took trips.
The top five destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of Auto Club travel agents, are, in this order Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, the Grand Canyon, and Santa Barbara and California’s Central Coast.
Both in Southern California and around the state, nearly 86 percent of travelers are expected to drive, and 11 percent are expected to go by air.
Los Angeles World Airport Executive Director Deborah Flint urged travelers to “reduce the stress of holiday travel by planning ahead and allowing extra time for getting to LAX.”
Airport officials also encouraged people to use public transportation, including the FlyAway bus service and Metro Green Line, to avoid congested traffic at the airport. They also urged people who are picking up visitors at the airport to use the Cellphone Waiting Lot at 96th Street and Vicksburg to avoid circling the airport and adding to the congestion.
—City News Service