A Southwest plane comes in for a landing at Long Beach Airport Thursday, July 21, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Pre-pandemic passenger volumes are just over the horizon at Long Beach Airport, according to recently released October data that shows the facility down 3.4% compared to the same month in 2019.

Throughout October, the small municipal airport served 294,841 arriving and departing travelers, compared to 305,102 passengers during October 2019. While still trailing pre-pandemic traffic numbers, the figure marks sizable increases of 409% and 34% over 2020 and 2021, respectively.

“We continue to see strong demand for the easygoing and convenient experience we offer at LGB,” airport Director Cynthia Guidry said in a statement.

In September, the airport came within 2.5% of pre-pandemic levels, its closest point since the industry came to a screeching halt in April 2020.

Prior to Thanksgiving week, airport officials projected heightened holiday travel would see aircraft average more than 80% occupancy, with some plans as high as 97% full. Data is still being compiled for holiday travel and November as a whole, according to airport spokesperson Kate Kuykendall, but traffic appears to be as high as expected.

Kuykendall said it’s too early to tell whether or not the holiday boost was enough to push November passenger volumes to pre-pandemic levels.

At the national level, air travel in October was 5.5% below the same period in 2019, according to data from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration—just over 68 million travelers, compared to nearly 72 million three years ago.

Back in Long Beach, air cargo movement remains far below pre-pandemic levels, data shows, a trend that is not likely to reverse since FedEx vacated its daily flight slot, leaving UPS as the only air cargo carrier at the airport. During October, 1,148 tons of cargo moved through the airport, down 16.5% from the year before and 35.5% from 2019.

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