The stagnation in local air travel continued in August as the 3.6 million passengers who passed through McCarran International Airport marked a 0.8 percent drop from one year ago.
The decline, contained in the monthly report issued by the Clark County Department of Aviation on Friday, came even as airlines boosted their seat counts into Las Vegas by 1.9 percent, which had given visitor industry leaders some hope that more people would be coming. Visitor surveys have consistently shown that people who fly in stay longer and spend more than those who come by car.
Nevertheless, August was the fifth month this year that the passenger total slid, although never by more than 1.6 percent.
Southwest, by far the largest airline in the market, carried 41,000 fewer passengers, a 2.3 percent decline that could not be offset by gains posted by several of its competitors. The drop for McCarran as a whole was 29,000 passengers.
By contrast, No. 2 Delta went up 10.4 percent, and No. 4 American rose 9.9 percent. On a percentage basis, the biggest jump was registered by AirTran, owned and managed by Southwest. This came as something of a surprise because Southwest has been gradually phasing out AirTran, including transferring some of its Las Vegas-to-Atlanta flights to Southwest.
The other domestic carriers constituted a mixed bag, including the 0.1 percent decline at the once fast-growing Allegiant. The net result was to a 1.4 percent dip for all domestic traffic.
As has been true for several years, international traffic kept growing at a 3.4 percent clip in August. But because foreign airlines carry fewer than one-tenth of the domestic passengers, they barely move the needle for the entire airport.
British Airways, up 36 percent, and Korean Air, up 34 percent, led the pack with expanded flight rosters and larger planes. AeroMexico went up 16 percent, but rival Volaris went down 27 percent. XL Airways, with the only nonstop service to Paris, was off 4.5 percent.
For the year to date, the 28 million passengers is down 0.1 percent. This comes even though airlines have started to bring slightly more seats into McCarran, but are filling a lower percentage of them.
Not surprisingly, total visitor counts to Las Vegas have remained in a holding pattern for much of this year, according to reports by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
But flight schedules now loaded into the system through the end of the year show monthly gains from 1.7 percent to 2.5 percent. During September and October, the international traffic will outpace domestic. But during the following two months, domestic will continue to grow while international contracts.
Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at 702-387-5290 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.