A Southwest Airlines plane takes off from Long Beach Airport Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The number of passengers traveling through Long Beach Airport in September was closer to pre-pandemic levels than it has been since the emergence of the coronavirus, coming within 2.5% of 2019 levels.

In September, 282,191 people passed through the small municipal airport, compared to 289,502 in September 2019. Passenger volumes plummeted amid the pandemic, and this September’s volume represents a 413% increase from 2020 and a 55.6% increase from 2021.

“Long Beach Airport’s commercial passenger activity for the month of September remains strong,” Airport Director Cynthia Guidry said in an email. “We consistently see high demand for air travel during what is typically a slower, post-summer travel season.”

While about 11,000 more people flew out of and into Long Beach in August, the passenger volume was 9.7% lower than pre-pandemic levels, according to airport data. In the four months leading up to August, passenger volumes were within 4% to 7.6% of 2019 levels.

Air travel nationwide, meanwhile, continues to lag, with this September’s almost 63.6 million passengers remaining nearly 6% below September 2019, when almost 67.6 million people passed through U.S. airports, according to U.S. Transportation Security Administration data.

In Long Beach, over 2.41 million travelers have passed through the airport this year as of Sept. 30, compared to nearly 2.65 million during the same period in 2019—an 8.9% decrease. The year-to-date figure, however, marks a 173.3% and 75.8% increase over 2020 and 2019, respectively.

Total air cargo tonnage passing through the local airport continues to trail far behind pre-pandemic levels, following the departure of FedEx, which gave up its only flight slot on the airfield last year. In September, the airport handled 1,121 tons of cargo, down over 28% from the same month in 2019. Compared to September 2021, air cargo was down over 15%.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Business Journal.