Southern California Airports are Bracing for Record Passenger Traffic

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Airports throughout Southern California are bracing for record passenger traffic this summer as airlines anticipate the busiest summer travel season since 2001.

Lines at customs, ticket counters and security checkpoints are already growing at Los Angeles International Airport, the world's fifth-busiest airport.

The Los Angeles World Airports expects 18.5 million travelers this summer, up 6 percent from the same period a year ago. About 5.1 million of them will be international passengers, a gain of about 10 percent over June, July and August of 2004.

Low airfares, a weak U.S. dollar and an expanding array of flights to destinations around the globe are expected to contribute to the record number of international travelers.

The increase is welcome news at the airport, which suffered more than other major U.S. airports from the steep decline in travel that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Iraq war and the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in Asia.

''It's been four years since there's been demand like this for airline seats to and from Los Angeles,'' said Paul Haney, a spokesman for the city's airport agency. ''Now airline station managers are telling us that their advanced bookings are up sharply for summer travel, and that means tickets will be scarce and planes will be full.''