LAX anticipates wave of Sunday travelers; dozens of flights canceled this weekend

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 27, 2022 - - Travelers begin their Memorial Day getaway at the Los Angeles International Airport on May 27, 2022. Over half a million passengers are expected to pass through LAX over the Memorial Day weekend, and millions more will hit the road for their first trip in nearly two years. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Travelers begin their Memorial Day getaways at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday. More than half a million passengers are expected to pass through LAX over the weekend, and millions more will hit the road for their first trip in nearly two years. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Dozens of flights have been canceled and hundreds more delayed this Memorial Day weekend at Los Angeles International Airport, where as many as 200,000 passengers are expected to travel Sunday.

Twenty flights had been canceled Saturday at LAX and an additional 216 delayed, according to the FlightAware tracking website. As of Sunday afternoon, 20 more flights had been canceled and more than 200 had been delayed, according to LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery.

Delta Airlines made up the biggest number of canceled flights Saturday at LAX, according to FlightAware. The airline has faulted a long list of issues for delays and cancellations, including rising rates of coronavirus infections that are pulling employees away from work.

"More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation — weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased COVID case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups — are resulting in an operation that isn’t consistently up to the standards Delta has set for the industry in recent years," Allison Ausband, its chief customer experience officer, said in a statement.

Delta said it was trying to make cancellations at least 24 hours in advance of scheduled departures "whenever possible," and was alerting customers through app notifications, emails and text messages.

Across the country, more than 500 flights within, into or out of the U.S. had been canceled Saturday, the FlightAware data showed. An additional 5,000 had been delayed Saturday, according to its data. At LAX, Montgomery said that cancellations and delays Saturday had been "slightly higher than normal."

Sunday is "historically our biggest day" for Memorial Day weekend travel, and the airport is expecting the number of departing passengers to reach 100,000 Sunday, which "would be a big milestone for us" — one not reached since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery said.

Travel has been rebounding even as coronavirus cases rise. In Los Angeles County, more than 4,200 new cases were being reported daily during the weeklong period that ended Thursday — a rate of 293 new infections per 100,000 residents. A rate of 100 or more is considered a high rate of transmission. Officials have cautioned that these numbers are an undercount because many Angelenos are now using home tests to detect the virus, which are not reliably reported to the county.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that passengers wear masks on airplanes and other forms of public transportation, but a federal mandate to wear masks there was voided by a court ruling last month, alarming immunocompromised people and their families.

Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.