Airports and highways will be jammed starting Friday during the Christmas and New Year’s period, setting travel records and making a lot of people miserable as they head for their happy holidays.
Nearly 7.7 million Southern California residents and 12.4 million statewide are expected to travel at least 50 miles away from home during the holiday period between Friday and Jan. 2 — a 1.8 percent increase over last year, the Automobile Club of Southern California said.
This year-end holiday travel season will set a new all-time record for the number of travelers in the Southland, California as a whole, and the U.S., according to projections from the AAA.
Eighty-nine percent of travelers, or 6.8 million Southern Californians and 10.9 million statewide, will travel by car to their destinations — a 1.7 percent increase from last year, when 6.7 million Southland residents and 10.8 million Californians drove to holiday getaways, according to an AAA statement.
More than 627,000 local residents and 1 million Californians are expected to fly — a 4.8 percent increase over 2015’s 598,000 air travelers from Southern California and 965,000 statewide.
Nationally, AAA projects 103 million travelers over the Christmas-New Year holiday, topping last year’s 101.5 million end-of-year travelers by 1.5 percent. This marks the eighth consecutive year of growth for end-of-year holiday travel, according to the Auto Club.
Gas prices will be very similar to last year’s holiday travel period, with averages in the $2.65-$2.80 range throughout most of Southern California.
Among air travelers, Friday will be the busiest day of the Christmas travel season at Los Angeles International, along with this past Wednesday, with some 239,000 people expected to pass through the facility on each of the two days, officials said.
In all, about 4.3 million passengers are expected to pass through LAX during the period that began a week ago Friday and will continue through Jan. 3, they said. The estimated number of travelers is 9.5 percent higher than last year’s record-setting 3.9 million passengers, according to Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that manages LAX.
While Friday and Wednesday are projected to be the airport’s busiest Christmas Holiday days, the slowest days will be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, with somewhere between 194,000 and 198,000 passengers expected on those days. About 221,000 people pass through LAX on an average day.
LAX is expected to be the third-busiest airport in the country over the holiday season, behind Atlanta and Chicago, but the busiest origin-and- destination airport, meaning more passengers will start or end their travel at LAX than at any other airfield.
Airport officials credited the boost in passenger traffic to an improved economy, cheaper air fares and the availability of additional seats.
Passengers were urged to arrive at least two hours ahead of boarding time for domestic flights and three hours ahead for international flights. With winter weather affecting many parts of the country, passengers were also urged to check with their airlines to ensure flights are not delayed or canceled.
People heading to the airport to pick up travelers were also urged to take advantage of cell phone waiting lot at 6221 W. 96th St., where people can park free for up to two hours while waiting for flights to arrive instead of circling the congested Central Terminal Area.
The most popular destinations for Southern Californians over this Christmas-New Year holiday, according to a poll of Auto Club AAA Travel agents, are Las Vegas, which is also the No. 1 destination for U.S. travelers; San Diego, which is the No. 3 destination nationwide; San Francisco; Mexico; Mammoth Lakes and Southern California ski areas.
—City News Service
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