LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is preparing for a surge in international travelers, after a pandemic ban that prohibited travelers from 33 countries from entering the U.S. has been lifted on Nov. 8.
The federal government first restricted travel from Europe in March 2020 over concerns about the coronavirus, followed by travel bans for other countries.
On Monday, restrictions were lifted for the 26 European countries that have no border controls, as well as China, India, South Africa, Iran, Brazil, Britain and Ireland.
“It’s also a big deal not only for the airport, but for the LA economy,” Montgomery said, adding that lifting restrictions will result in a million extra tourists coming to Los Angeles through June 2022.
The million people are expected to spend about $1 billion in Los Angeles and the surrounding area.
“There’s huge economic implications to this in addition to just seeing passenger numbers rise, so it’s a win-win,” Montgomery said.
The first group of previously restricted passengers arrived at LAX on a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight from Amsterdam, and planes will be arriving throughout Monday from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland and more, according to Heath Montgomery, director of public relations for Los Angeles World Airports.
Federal guidelines require international travelers to show proof of WHO-approved full vaccination, along with proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel.
People under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement, but they need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The exemption also includes people medically unable to receive the vaccine and emergency travelers without timely access to a vaccine.
In recent weeks, the airport has been processing about 13,000 international visitors per day, which might gradually increase to 35,000 or 40,000 per day by the end of the year.
Montgomery noted the surge wouldn’t be like “flipping a switch,” but the airport expects international travelers to triple as airlines add capacity and additional flights, and as more people book flights into the U.S.
LAX has a long way to go before returning to pre-pandemic levels. During the first nine months of 2021, the airport had about 5 million international travelers, down about 75% from the approximately 20 million during the same period in 2019.