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Holiday airport survival guide: no Uber from LAX, but maybe a copter?

FILE: About 3.5 million people are expected to make their way through LAX this holiday season.
FILE: About 3.5 million people are expected to make their way through LAX this holiday season.
Ben Bergman

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This is not news you want to hear, but the Los Angeles International Airport is expected to be the busiest in the country during the 17-day, end-of-year holiday period.

Officials project 3.5 million people will pass through LAX from Dec. 18 through Jan. 3, a nearly 8 percent increase over last year.

The busiest traffic is expected on the Monday and Wednesday before Christmas, and the Sunday and Wednesday after Christmas.

"The biggest tip we can offer travelers is to just be patient and keep in mind what the end goal is," said Nancy Castles, an LAX airport spokeswoman.

She suggests travelers arrive at the airport two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights. Castles also notes that airport traffic conditions can be checked in advance at the LAX website. Passengers should also be mindful of potential flight delays due to winter weather at other destinations.

Flying on an actual holiday can offer a break from the hordes. LAX expects Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day to be slower than average.

Traffic on area roads should also be slightly more pleasant as car volumes decrease during the last two weeks of the year since fewer people are working. 

As for getting away from LAX, Uber and Lyft ride-hailing cars still cannot pick up from within the terminal despite a July decision to allow them, although passengers can be dropped off.

The companies are in the process of applying for a permit to pick up LAX passengers. The application requires the companies demonstrate geo-fence technology that will route all app requests to drivers in a specially designated waiting area and restrict the number of cars allowed at the airport.

Uber, Lyft and airport officials could not say when the applications are likely to be completed.

Ride-hailing services are allowed to pick up passengers at John Wayne Airport in Orange. At Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, drivers must pick up at the short-term parking area that adds an additional $3 to the fare. Neither Ontario nor Long Beach airports currently allow pickups by ride-hailing companies.

The LAX Flyaway has expanded service to the Orange Line rapid bus in Van Nuys, bringing the number of lines to six, including Hollywood, Westwood, Union Station, Van Nuys (non-Orange Line stop) and Santa Monica.

If money is no object, you could avoid streets altogether: for about $250 per passenger, helicopter shuttle services are available to LAX.