Calif. Airports Forecast Busy Summer for Travelers

LOS ANGELES, May 26, 2005 (PRIMEZONE) -- Led by record international travel, approximately 18.5 million passengers are expected to pass through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) this summer. That is an increase of about one million passengers or six percent over the same period last year.

The summer travel season starts this Friday and continues through Labor Day. LAX expects to serve nearly 800,000 passengers during the upcoming four-day Memorial Day weekend, an increase of six percent over the same period last year.

''Passenger terminals are sure to be crowded and flights running full throughout the summer,'' said Kim Day, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports. ''Low airfares and a weak U.S. dollar, which encourages more foreign travelers to visit the U.S., are combining to make the summer of 2005 extremely busy for the nearly 80 passenger airlines serving LAX.''

She added that the airlines, airport and federal agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration and Customs & Border Protection, have been working on summer operations plans for months and are prepared to meet the challenges posed by high passenger volumes.

The record for summer travel at LAX was set in 2001 when 19 million passengers arrived and departed between June 1 and August 31.

The record pace of international passenger traffic at LAX set in the first quarter of 2005 is expected to continue through the summer travel season. Airport officials expect international passenger traffic to reach 5.1 million, up about 10 percent this summer compared with last summer and above the previous summer record of 4.9 million passengers set in 2001. Domestic traffic is forecast to increase at a lower rate due to several airlines reducing capacity in response to record fuel prices.

The Los Angeles economy greatly depends on international tourism and trade. Last year, foreign visitors contributed $3.4 billion to the local economy, according to LA Inc./The Convention and Visitors Bureau.

International flights this summer will increase 13.2 percent to a record 1,069 weekly departures from 944 at the same time last year. The previous record was 1,051 weekly international departures scheduled in July 2001. A total of 52 air carriers operate international flights at LAX to 62 nonstop destinations around the world.

Among the international destinations seeing significantly increased service from LAX this summer compared with last summer are the Mexican cities of Aguascalientes (8 weekly departures vs. 3 last year), Guadalajara (62 vs. 53), Leon-Guanajuato (24 vs. 7), Mexico City (89 vs. 67), Morelia (13 vs. 3) and Queretaro (7 vs. 0); the Canadian cities of Calgary (25 vs. 14), Toronto (55 vs. 49) and Vancouver (91 vs. 84); San Jose, Costa Rica (14 vs. 7); San Salvador, El Salvador (39 vs. 32); Tokyo-Narita (64 vs. 57); Seoul-Incheon (32 vs. 29); and Frankfurt (21 vs. 17).

For all of 2005, LAX expects to serve approximately 64 million passengers. Full recovery to pre-9/11 passenger traffic levels is expected in 2006. LAX's record passenger traffic year was 2000, when it served 67.3 million. The LAX share of regional aviation demand has been declining for decades and is expected to be about 70 percent this year.

Passenger traffic at LAX's sister airport, Ontario International Airport (ONT), is forecast to set another record this summer with nearly two million travelers expected to depart and arrive through the Inland Empire airport, up four percent over last year's 1.9 million passengers. More than 90,000 travelers are expected to pass through ONT during the upcoming four-day holiday weekend, up from 87,000 last year.

ONT, named one of the nation's five best alternate airports by Forbes, will have 106 daily departures this summer to 19 nonstop destinations in the U.S. and Mexico. It is projected to surpass the 7-million-passenger mark in 2005 for the first time in its 80-year history.

Palmdale Regional Airport (PMD) will provide commercial air service this summer for the first time since 1997. Scenic Airlines offers 20 weekly flights between PMD and North Las Vegas Airport.

With the prospect of 2005 becoming LAX's busiest summer travel season in four years, travelers are reminded to arrive at the airport well before their flight and to use several convenient services recently inaugurated at LAX.