McCarran passenger traffic rises for 16th straight month

For the 16th consecutive month, McCarran International Airport saw more passengers.

The Clark County Department of Aviation said Thursday 3,554,497 people used the airport in April, a 2.7 percent increase from a year ago.

Southwest Airlines, which accounts for roughly 40 percent of the airport's volume, saw its passenger count jump 1.7 percent in April. Analysts reported that Allegiant Air had a nearly 26 percent increase in passenger volume and Continental had an 11.5 percent increase.

For the first four months of 2012, passenger count is up 3 percent over 2011, with 13,493,137 people going through the airport. In all of 2011, McCarran recorded 41.5 million passengers.

The number of passengers on international flights during April grew 2.7 percent. For the year, the international passenger count is up 17 percent.

The numbers could continue to increase with the opening of the $2.4 billion Terminal 3 next month.

Last year, McCarran added six international routes by carriers such as Westjet, Volaris and Virgin Atlantic.

The opening of seven state-of-the-art international gates at Terminal 3 will be christened by Copa Airlines, a Panamanian carrier, which begins nonstop service between its Panama City hub and Las Vegas on June 27.

The airline, and Las Vegas officials, hope the flights serve as a connection to cities throughout Latin America.

Terminal 3, which has its own infrastructure of roadways, boarding gates, baggage claim, check-in counters, baggage ramps and a 6,000-space parking garage, is replacing the outdated Terminal 2 for international travel.

Along with Copa's flights, McCarran will add service from Air Berlin, with nonstop flights between Las Vegas and Dusseldorf, Germany, starting in May that will run through October. In June, Netherlands air carrier ArkeFly will begin nonstop summer-only service between Las Vegas and Amsterdam.

"The more efficient nature of Terminal 3 could lead to more international routes, which were previously limited by the enplaning and deplaning time constraints at Terminal 2," Union Gaming Group principal Bill Lerner told his firm's clients in research note.

He said Terminal 3 would also reduce congestion at McCarran's main terminal because several carriers will shift operations to the new facility.

"The decrease in passenger congestion and a more efficiently designed terminal should lead to an overall reduction in travel times for passengers and could encourage more domestic and international routes by carriers," Lerner said. "We believe that strong airlift numbers in 2012 will drive occupancy and room rates on the Las Vegas Strip."

With Terminal 3, McCarran's capacity will be 53 million passengers annually.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.