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Long Beach Airport passenger numbers are well above pandemic lows, but full recovery is slow-going

A man waits for his luggage at Long Beach Airport’s baggage claim area, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Passenger traffic remains well below pre-pandemic levels at Long Beach Airport, with percentage changes from 2019 to 2021 remaining flat from August to September, according to data released Thursday.

Last month, 181,360 people traveled through the small municipal airport. While that marks a nearly 230% increase over the same month in 2020, it remains more than 37% lower than September 2019. August 2021 passenger traffic (203,940) also was just over 37% lower than the same month in 2019.

“We saw a slight reduction in passenger traffic during September, as expected with the end of the summer travel season,” airport Director Cynthia Guidry said in a Friday email. “Our airline partners have already begun increasing their flight schedules and we are looking forward to stronger numbers during the fall.”

For months, the airport had seen significant improvements in passenger traffic, with the difference between 2019 and 2021 levels reaching its lowest point in July, when passenger traffic was only 29% below the same month in 2019. At the onset of the pandemic, passenger traffic plummeted as low as 98% below normal levels.

But Long Beach is not alone. Air travel across the country remains well under pre-pandemic levels, according to Transportation Security Administration data. In September, on average, 500,000 fewer passengers traveled each day compared to 2019.

Year-to-date, 1.37 million people have traveled through Long Beach Airport, a more than 55% increase from the same period last year. Compared to 2019, year-to-date passenger traffic is down more than 48%.

In September, a total of 1,322 tons of air cargo passed through the airport, up nearly 20% from the same month last year but down more from 15% from 2019.

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