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Travelers Continue To Pack LAX Despite Rising Cases

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A rising case count is not stopping some travelers from flying out of Los Angeles for the holidays.

"Haven't been home in two years because of COVID," said international traveler April Phan, who is from Australia. "With all these variants, maybe the borders will close down again, so I'm just taking the opportunity that things are opening up to get home to see family before anything happens."

However, health officials are warning travelers to proceed with caution as COVID-19 cases surge throughout the globe as a result of the Omicron variant. 

"If you're not vaccinated, I would say travel is really not a great idea," said former National Institutes of Health director Frances Collins. "Because you are in a very vulnerable palace now with Omicron."

Holiday travel has begun at Los Angeles International Ariport.
Los Angeles, CA - December 16: A woman checks the departure and arrival screens at LAX"nin Los Angeles on Thursday, December 16, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images)

However, even with the fear of Omicron, many continue to catch their scheduled flights at record numbers. 

Phan is one of the three million people expected to pass through LAX between Dec. 17 and Jan. 3. LAX is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels as the TSA saw its busiest day at the airport since early 2020 last Friday. On peak days this week, the airport is expecting to see as many as 200,000 travelers in a single day. 

But with the emergence of the Omicron comes the creation of new COVID rules and restrictions which have confused some international passengers.

"Both my mother and I are vaccinated," said traveler Jorge Albarran. "My mother also has the booster shot already. We're good on that side. It's just the rules changing, making sure we know when to [test for COVID-19] upon our return." 

The new regulations cost Phan more than $300 for a rapid test after she learned a previous test wouldn't arrive in time. 

"We were queueing up for like four and a half hours to get our COVID test, and then those results didn't come in on time," said Phan. "Then we had to line up at another place to pay something absurd like $350 dollars for another COVID test."

Cancellations and delays have made holiday travel a nightmare for those hoping to leave Los Angeles. 

"They didn't tell me anything, they just told me it's delayed," said traveler Ngozi Ugoko. "They have to put me on the next flight, and this disrupts my connecting flight over there."

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