Capacity discipline, the airline industry term for keeping a tight rein on flight schedules, continued to dampen the local visitor industry in August.
During the month, the 3.65 million people who passed through McCarran International Airport marked just a 0.3 percent gain from one year ago, according to airport statistics. This came as three of the five largest carriers - United, Delta and American - all posted declines locally and all have publicly committed themselves to capacity discipline throughout their systems.
The most recent rounds of flight cuts, intended to fill a higher percentage of seats and to push up fares, has come in the wake of fuel prices that spiked upward earlier this year. In the four months through April, passenger counts at McCarran rose 3 percent compared with a year ago after a 4.3 percent gain for all of last year versus 2010. Since May, the counts have been flat.
The pace of the visitor industry's recovery, closely with tied people arriving by air, has also slowed in tandem. The number of tourist and convention attendees has gone up only 1.9 percent the first seven months this year compared with a 4.3 percent pace for all of 2011, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The commonly owned and managed Southwest and AirTran, together the market leader at McCarran, grew 2.8 percent. This has come as Southwest has retrofitted its cabins with a new seat model that creates enough room to add six seats per plane.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant posted an 11 percent gain, even as a top executive said the rising cost of using McCarran would restrain its local growth.
The airlines that posted double-digit gains included Spirit, Virgin America and tiny Sun Country.
Now settled in at the new Terminal 3, the international carriers continued to be the bright spot at McCarran. Their passenger totals rose 9.1 percent in August, but still made up less than 10 percent of the airport's total traffic.
About half of the gain came from Panama's Copa, Germany's airberlin and Holland's Arkefly, all of which began coming to McCarran earlier this year.
The rest of the foreign service produced mixed results. Mexican carrier Volaris grew 79 percent with a busier schedule, and Korean Air rose 19.5 by deploying larger planes on its nonstop flights to Seoul. Canada's Westjet, by far the largest foreign carrier at McCarran, went up 7.9 percent.
However, the most prestigious service, the daily nonstop flights to Great Britain by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, showed slight declines.
During the eight months through August, the 28.1 million passengers was up only 1.4 percent.
Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5290.