LAX braces for a record-breaking Thanksgiving travel weekend

Jets taxi after sunset at Los Angeles International Airport.
Jets taxi after sunset at Los Angeles International Airport.
David McNew/Getty Images

LAX is set for a record-breaking Thanksgiving travel weekend — for the second year in a row. That's great for airlines and the airport, not so much for travelers.

Year over year, the number of people coming through Los Angeles Airport has been increasing. Airport spokesperson Mary Grady tells KPCC she expects to break last year's record with an 8 percent increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers over 2015.

That puts LAX on track to break its all-time annual record. It's likely 80 million or more passengers will have traveled through the hub during 2016.

What does that mean for harried Southern Californians trying to fly into or out of LAX this Thanksgiving weekend?

"Every terminal is busy," Grady says. "Normally, the peak periods run from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., but during the holiday, it's all a peak period."

For a domestic flight, arrive at least two hours before your boarding time — NOT your departure time. For an international flight, arrive least two hours before boarding begins.

Once you do, you'll be jockeying for position with 105,000 to 123,000 other cars rolling through the central terminal each day during the 11-day stretch between Wednesday, November 23 and Monday, Nov. 28. Officials are urging (read: practically begging) travelers to take public transit to LAX.

Grady also reminds passengers that LAX has undergone a lot of construction over the last several years. Terminals 1, 2, 7 and 8 are still in the midst of it, although officials have halted construction at the airport through Monday night to help combat congestion.

"If you haven't been here in a while," Grady says, "you'll notice differences. So take time to prepare yourself before coming to airport."

Print boarding passes at home. Brace yourself. Have patience, especially on the busiest travel days. Those would be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, followed by Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend.

And if you're picking up someone who's flying into LAX, in the name of all that is sane and decent, don't endlessly circle the main terminal. Park yourself in the cell phone waiting lot at the corner of 96th and Vicksburg. You can hang there for free for up to two hours until your passenger arrives.