LAX international travelers have hit the unseen mark since the start of the pandemic

Los Angeles International Airport saw more than 1 million international passengers in March, the first time its monthly tally has reached that milestone since the start of the pandemic in 2020, airport officials said Thursday.

The increase comes as both domestic and international air travel continue to recover from the pandemic.

“We have seen things trend upward over the year,” Los Angeles World Airports CEO Justin Erbacci said Thursday.

International numbers seen last month are 206% higher than total passengers in March 2021, according to data provided by Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX and Van Nuys Airport.

Meanwhile, domestic travel continues to expand at a rapid pace with 4.1 million passengers reported in March, an 82% increase from March 2021.

Los Angeles Airport recorded a total of 13.2 million passengers between January and March, a 122% increase over the same period last year.

In 2021, 48 million passengers traveled through LAX, up from 88 million in 2019.

The airport had estimated it would see between 45 and 46 million domestic and international passengers at LAX for fiscal year 2021-22, Erbacci said. To date, the airport has seen around 43 million passengers.

“We are moving forward compared to our expected numbers,” said Erbacci. “And we expect that if things continue as we think we will easily exceed the expected number of passengers.”

A full recovery in international numbers is hampered by still stringent COVID-19 restrictions in Asia, Erbacci said, adding that travel between Europe and the United States has been stronger.

“We see an increase in travel from Asian countries because we are an Asian gateway and we are heavily dependent on those passengers,” Erbacci said.

Demand for European destinations was strong enough for LAX to launch new routes to Paris and Frankfurt through “low-cost” international airlines this spring, Erbacci said, adding that cheap carriers were among the first to resume such. international routes.

Although passengers have largely returned, airlines face challenges in hiring enough pilots to meet the growing demand.

“You will have seen that most of the US carriers have already canceled some of the flights they had in the summer schedule,” Erbacci said.

“The demand has to be strong, very strong, this summer, but I think it will be limited by the supply that the airlines are able to provide,” he said.