LAX had 1/3 the number of travelers in 2020 than in 2019: Report

Travelers wait in line to check in for a flight at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) amid a COVID-19 surge in Southern California on December 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Ge (Getty Images)

The number of passengers who traveled through Los Angeles International Airport in 2020 was about a third of the passengers that traveled through the airport in 2019, Los Angeles World Airport officials estimated Friday.

Though officials noted numbers are not final, the airport projects that 29 million passengers traveled through it in 2020, compared to 88.1 passengers in 2019.

The airport's "historic lows" were reached in April, with a 95% decline in passengers compared to 2019 numbers, officials said. Flights were also reduced by about 45% in 2020, which saw 379,340 flights, compared to 691,257 flights in 2019.

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"While we have experienced some growth over the last nine months from an initial drop of 95% in passenger traffic at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), we continue to have a long road ahead for our recovery," LAWA CEO Justin Erbacci said in a statement.

While passengers and flights decreased, the airport reported an "astonishing" 20,433% increase in personal protective equipment cargo operations, as LAX was the number-one U.S. airport for that trade category.

For total cargo, the airport was number three in the world. It participated in more than $95.5 billion in cargo operations in 2020.

The airport also undertook several safety precautions and modernization efforts amid the pandemic.

Initiatives to combat the virus included:

• an on-site COVID-19 rapid testing lab, providing results within 3-5 hours;
• a terminal wellness pilot program, using thermal-imaging cameras to detect body temperature;
• an expanded, contactless mobile food and beverage ordering service;
• touchless TSA document checks, using new credential authentication technology that allows customers to be checked without exchanging documents at the checkpoint;
• a biometric speed travel program, automating the manual document checks to enter the U.S.; and
• personal protective equipment vending machines, offering hand sanitizer, face coverings and gloves.

The airport also continued work on its $14.3 billion capital improvement program to modernize terminals and create better airport access points.

Modernization efforts in 2020 included:

• construction on a 15-gate concourse connected to Tom Bradley International Terminal via an underground pedestrian tunnel;
• completion of a 4,300-stall parking structure;
• progress on an automated people mover;
• near completion of a 160,000-square-foot airport police facility;
• progress on a consolidated rent-a-car facility that will be accessible by the automated people mover;
• terminal modernization, including increased baggage and screening areas in Terminal 1.5 and renovations for terminals 2 and 3; and
• construction on Receiving Station X, which will support LAWA's modernization plans by providing redundant power to all major facilities at the airport.

The airport also worked on sustainability initiatives, including:
• using 20 all-electric buses to carry passengers between LAX terminals and airfield gates; and
• expanding its food donation and waste diversion program to all concessions and lounges.

"In 2020, even amid an unprecedented drop in travel demand and an extremely challenging financial situation, we accomplished remarkable feats," Erbacci said.