Friday, August 14, 2020

COVID Traffic

Gratuitous picture of an airplane with cute marine mammals on the side

Now that I have your attention, let's talk numbers. Last time, I mentioned that LAX's traffic, as measured by aircraft movements, is down to a bit less than half of what it would normally be at this time of year. While this information is freely available via public sources, let me share with you our informal in-house traffic count calendar. I'll start with what a normal July looks like at LAX, in this case last summer:

LAX traffic count July 2019

As you can see, we were averaging around 2000 operations per day. Saturdays are generally our slowest day of the week; our busiest tends to be either Thursday or Friday. Now, take a look at what's been happening this summer:

LAX traffic count July 2020

It hasn't been this way the whole year; we started out with a normal looking January:

LAX traffic count January 2020

I don't have complete data for February, but what I did see had nothing out of the ordinary. March started out the same way, but while that month normally sees traffic build for spring break, this year it did exactly the opposite as the COVID "stay at home" orders and travel restrictions took effect:

LAX traffic count March 2020

In my March 27 post, written after I left work around ten that evening, I speculated that we were about to have our first day of less than one thousand operations. As it so happened, the last Thursday in March was the last time that LAX ran more than one thousand ops in a day; we've been in triple digits ever since. The flight cancellations that began in March really got serious in April and May:

LAX traffic count April 2020
LAX traffic count May 2020

Our slowest day of the the year has been Monday, April 20, with a whopping 405 operations for the entire day. That's not much busier than my very first facility in Monroe, Louisiana! After that nadir, traffic levels increased somewhat as we worked our way through June:

LAX traffic count June 2020

Just for the sake of comparison, here's the count for June of a year ago:

LAX traffic count June 2019

In early June, we were told that the airlines were expecting to ramp up their schedules for July, and that we should be prepared to see around 1,400 operations per day. Preparations were made to bring more controllers in so that more positions could be opened. But, as you can see above, we peaked (so far) in mid-July at 956 ops for the day on Friday the 17th. As I write this in early August, we still have yet to attain the 1000 level again.

Last minute update: Just before posting, I called to verify our numbers. Our new peak of 974 was reached last Friday, the 7th. Not yet back up to a thousand, but we're getting there!

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