Travelers pick up their luggage at the McCarran International Airport baggage claim area in this file photo. ( File photo )
By Richard N. Velotta, Vegas Inc. and U.S. News Agency / Asian
Passenger traffic at McCarran International Airport was flat in July compared with a year ago, with 0.6 percent fewer travelers, a result of fewer scheduled domestic flights and a downturn of passengers on scenic helicopter flights.
Some experts theorized that the decline also was due in part to the Fourth of July holiday falling midweek this year. It was a part of a three-day weekend in 2011.
McCarran reported that 3.67 million passengers arrived to and departed from the airport in July, compared with 3.69 million a year earlier. For the year, traffic is up 1.5 percent to 24.4 million.
Domestic passenger counts were down 1 percent for the month, while the number of domestic flights fell 6.9 percent since July 2011. The number of seats on domestic flights fell 9 percent. McCarran had 1,186 domestic flights a week in July compared with 1,274 in July 2011.
Most of the decline can be attributed to US Airways’ pullback from Las Vegas. The Tempe, Ariz.-based carrier dropped 106 flights a week over the past year as the airline refocused its strategy to fly primarily to and from its hub cities of Phoenix, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.
Delta, United, American, Allegiant, Alaska, JetBlue and Frontier also are offering fewer seats to Las Vegas. Southwest isn’t offering as many new flights or seats either because it is merging with AirTran.
While the flight activity for domestic carriers is down, the number of international seats coming to Las Vegas is up 14.1 percent with three new carriers and big percentage increases by Mexican airlines Volaris, AeroMexico and VivaAerobus and additional flights by Condor and WestJet.
Overall, however, the number of international flights coming into Las Vegas is down 3.3 percent and the number of seats down 2 percent.
The combination of more passengers and fewer flights and seats means a higher percentage of seats are being filled on flights, which is exactly what airlines hope for to be more profitable.
Southwest continued to dominate the Las Vegas market with 1.51 million passengers in July, a 6.8 percent increase over the previous year. The next four airlines among the top five showed declines, with Delta down 11.7 percent, United down 13.2 percent, Allegiant down 0.2 percent and American down 2.6 percent.
Spirit Airlines, JetBlue, Sun Country and Virgin America showed gains for the month.
Internationally, Korean Air, Condor and the Mexican carriers saw sizable percentage increases, while there were slight declines for Air Canada, WestJet, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Overall, international passenger counts were up 9.1 percent, to 235,987 for the month.
McCarran also reported that the number of scenic helicopter tour passengers fell 6.5 percent in July and 7.7 percent for the year.