Southwest Airlines plane comes in for a landing at the Long Beach airport in Long Beach Thursday, November 10, 2022. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Long Beach Airport officials are urging passengers to plan ahead for increased passenger traffic this week, as longer lines and fuller flights are expected for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Officials estimate passenger numbers this week will be nearly as high as in 2019.

“We’re expecting to see the Long Beach Airport continue its strong economic recovery during this holiday travel season,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement.

From Monday through Sunday, airport staff estimate there are a total of more than 43,000 seats available across 46 daily flights. The average load factor—the number of passengers aboard a flight divided by the total number of seats—is expected to be over 80%, compared to an average of 70% for the same period last year, officials stated.

Load factors are expected to be as high as 97% on some days. Heightened demand is expected to continue throughout the holiday season and into early January, officials said.

The small, municipal airport is allowed 53 daily flights, but not all slots are actively being used. Several new routes are slated to begin in the coming months, including daily Southwest Airlines service to New Orleans and Salt Lake City.

Between American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest, airport staff estimate 72,000 passengers will travel through the airport this week, including upward of 12,000 people on the busiest days.

“Long Beach Airport is known for offering an easygoing experience that makes us very attractive during the holiday rush,” Airport Director Cynthia Guidry said in a statement. “Even during the busiest travel days of the year, we are confident we can deliver calm, cool and convenient travel options for passengers.”

Airport staff provided the following tips to ensure the “smoothest, stress-free” travel experience:

  • Arrive 90 minutes early, especially for morning flights;
  • Check airlines’ baggage rules and verify flight schedules in advance;
  • Use the free Cell Phone Waiting Lot (3401 N. Lakewood Blvd.) at the entrance to the airport for pickups;
  • Use the center median in front of the historic terminal to access rideshare services;
  • Be aware that self-parking is available in Structure A and B and valet service is located at 4137 Donald Douglas Dr.;
  • Use the LGB Airport app for information on arrivals, departures, parking and shopping;
  • View the airport’s website for accessibility information;
  • Be aware that the pet and service animal relief area is north of the terminal, and travelers should check their airline’s policies for traveling with animals in advance;
  • Visit the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s “What Can I Bring?” website while packing to ensure faster security check.

The increased volume is welcome at the airport, which has yet to fully recover from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic that saw travel all but disappear in 2020. Recovery has been slow, but September saw the airport come within 2.5% of pre-pandemic levels, the closest it has come since the onset of COVID-19.

October passenger data has not yet been released.

Long Beach Airport came as close as ever to pre-pandemic passenger volumes in September

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