Southwest Airlines plane landing
A Southwest Airlines plane approaches to land at San Diego International Airport. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Sunday was the busiest day of the long Thanksgiving weekend at Southern California airports with a record number of Southern Californians traveling.

A record 4.5 million Southern California residents were expected to travel this holiday period, up 2.5% from last year, contributing to what the Automobile Club of Southern California projected to be the third-busiest Thanksgiving travel period on record nationally.

To start the holiday, San Diego International Airport expected about 70,000 to 80,000 people to move through terminals on Wednesday, according to 10News.com.

Los Angeles International Airport officials warned travelers to keep tabs on their Sunday flights.

“Today is expected to be the busiest day of the Thanksgiving holiday travel period at LAX, with about 215,000 guests using the airport. Make sure you check your flight status, pre-book parking … and arrive early for a smooth journey!” airport officials tweeted in the morning.

Hollywood Burbank Airport issued a similar advisory.

Still, airlines are operating 13% fewer domestic flights during the eight-day Thanksgiving travel period compared with 2019, according to data by Cirium.

“I expect most flights to be running very full,” said John Grant, senior analyst at travel data firm OAG. 

United Airlines expects to carry more than 5.5 million passengers from Nov. 18-30, nearly matching 2019 and up about 12% versus last year. It projects Sunday as its busiest day since the onset of the pandemic.

Delta Air Lines Inc. expects to fly close to 6 million customers this Thanksgiving holiday from Nov. 18-29, just shy of the total customers flown over the same period in 2019.

According to the Auto Club, 3.9 million Southern Californians were expected to drive to their destinations, while 542,000 were expected to travel by air and 109,000 to take other modes of transportation, such as buses, trains or cruises.

The most popular destinations for Southern California travelers were anticipated to be Las Vegas, San Diego, the Grand Canyon/Sedona, Yosemite and Mexico cruises.

Nationally, Anaheim was expected to be the second most popular travel destination, behind Orlando, Florida.

Staff and wire reports