The region’s airports were expecting a major boost from Thanksgiving weekend travel, with bookings at their highest level since the pandemic began and airlines planning significant increases in flights.

But the increase never materialized, thanks to the November surge in coronavirus cases that prompted many people to cancel travel plans at the last minute. 


Aircraft boardings at Los Angeles International Airport saw only a slight bump over the holiday. 


And the year-over-year percentage decline in boardings for the Thanksgiving travel period at Hollywood Burbank, Long Beach and Ontario International airports barely budged from October’s depressed levels.


“We didn’t get the big Thanksgiving numbers we were anticipating,” said Justin Erbacci, chief executive of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX.


The disappointing results come on top of another lackluster month for passenger traffic at the region’s four airports for October. 


Overall, just under 2.5 million passengers went through the gates at all four airports in October, a decline of 71 percent from October 2019. 


Hollywood Burbank Airport reported a 75 percent decline in passengers in October compared to the same month in 2019.

In mid-November, hopes were high among officials at the four airports that these year-over-year percentage drops would shrink considerably over the 10-day Thanksgiving holiday travel period, which includes the weekends before and after the actual holiday.

Thanksgiving is typically the busiest 10-day stretch in the entire year, including the peak summer travel season and the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period. 


In previous years, the Thanksgiving holiday has represented a bonanza for eateries and gift shops inside airport terminals, as well as car rentals, rideshare and taxi services. Last year, a record 3.21 million passengers went through the gates at LAX during the two-week period that included Thanksgiving.


According to a Thanksgiving travel forecast issued by Los Angeles World Airports on Nov. 18, several airlines had added flights to their schedules for the holiday period, based on bookings that they had received.


But actual boarding data for the Thanksgiving holiday period released by the federal Transportation Security Administration on Nov. 30 revealed a much bleaker picture.


“We saw an average of 33 percent of the boardings that we had in 2019 for the same 10-day period,” Erbacci said.


At Hollywood-Burbank Airport, 14,791 passengers went through TSA checkpoints on their way to boarding aircraft during Thanksgiving week (Nov. 22 through Nov. 28), a drop of roughly 78 percent from the same week last year. The TSA data is only for boardings and does not include arriving passengers.