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Thanksgiving Travelers Passing Through LAX Falls To A Third Of Last Year's

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Travelers return the Sunday after Thanksgiving, typically one of the busiest travel days of the year. (Josie Huang/LAist)
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The Sunday after Thanksgiving is typically one of the busiest days of the year at LAX, but the pandemic has dramatically cut the number of passengers passing through the airport this holiday.

The daily count of LAX passengers who go through TSA screening has been averaging about a third of what it was last Thanksgiving, according to airport officials.

LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery said that airlines, meanwhile, have been operating half the number of flights they did last year at this time — an average of about 850 a day.

The relatively busiest travel day so far has been the Friday before Thanksgiving — Nov. 20 — drawing almost 45,000 passengers.

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"We have not seen that kind of number for people coming back," Montgomery said. "It wouldn't surprise me if we saw that on a Sunday, Monday this week."

For Joselyn Hope, there was no question she was going to travel for the holidays. As she waited outside a terminal for a ride from her roommate, the Oceanside resident said she wished her flight on American Airlines from Dallas had been less full, but she was still glad she had gone to see her family.

"I've basically been battling depression lately, especially with COVID," said Hope, her voice muffled by her wearing two masks. "So they really didn't want me to be by myself this year."

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Joselyn Hope of Oceanside waits for her roommate to pick her up from LAX. (Josie Huang/LAist)

The state is recommending those who did travel to quarantine for two weeks. Hope said her job working from home for a pharmacy company allows her to do so easily.

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On the other hand, John Holleran, who was returning from seeing family in Minnesota, said he still has to go out to make food deliveries to pay for engineering graduate school. But he planned to minimize socializing and hit the books alone to study for finals.

"It's definitely not business as usual," said Holleran, a student at Cal State Fullerton. "I'm not going to be seeing the amount of people that I usually would see."

Holleran said he need to stay healthy as he plans on boarding a plane again in a few weeks to visit his parents for Christmas.

The city of Los Angeles is requiring those passing through LAX, Van Nuys Airport and Union Station to fill out online forms acknowledging the state advisory that anyone entering California from another state or country should quarantine for 14 days.

Hope said she filled out the form while she was waiting to board her plane at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Holleran said he wasn't instructed to complete the form and would fight any potential penalty. The city has said it could fine people up to $500 for failing to submit the form.

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Montgomery said the airport is doing its best to inform passengers of the new form requirement by placing signs throughout terminals with a QR code that passengers can scan to take them straight to the website.

"We're also working with the airlines to try and get them to make announcements on the flights when they land," Montgomery said.

Montgomery said another change coming to LAX is the mobile testing center opening later this week across from Terminal 6. It'll offer Covid and antigen testing, with results expected to come back from the on-site lab within three hours.

LAX says this will help travelers headed to destinations such as Hawaii, which demand negative Covid tests upon arrival.