Passenger counts at McCarran International Airport declined for the sixth straight month in July while airline upheaval helped Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air crack the airport's top five air carrier list for the first time.
According to figures released Monday by the Clark County Department of Aviation, 3,518,217 passengers came through the airport during July, a 1.1 percent decline compared with 3,557,509 passengers who used McCarran in July 2009.
For the first seven months of 2010, more than 23.1 million passengers traveled through McCarran, a decline of 2.7 percent compared with almost 23.8 million passengers who came through the airport in the same time frame in 2009.
Wall Street has been watching the passenger numbers out of McCarran for the past year, analyzing how declines could impact visitation into Las Vegas.
Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Andrew Zarnett, in a recent report to the firm's investors, said airline rates have risen 10 percent this year, which could hurt the number of tourists coming to the Strip.
Zarnett is concerned higher fees, along with fees on services and baggage, will force leisure travelers to hold off vacation plans or choose cheaper alternatives closer to home.
"Given that approximately 50 percent of Las Vegas revenues come from visitors that arrive by air, we believe that the higher cost of flying will be yet another impediment to the Las Vegas recovery," Zarnett wrote in the report.
"Consumers choosing to travel to Las Vegas will spend less at the casino floor, given that the higher cost of flying will reduce their discretionary budgets," Zarnett said.
Allegiant, which connects Las Vegas with smaller regional markets, as well as Los Angeles, the Phoenix area and Florida, carried 202,314 passengers to and from Las Vegas in July, a 10.8 percent increase compared with a year ago when the airline carried 182,586.
For the first seven months of the year, Allegiant has flown almost 1.2 million passengers in and out of McCarran, an increase of 3.6 percent compared with the same seven months of 2009.
Allegiant flew 171 flights per week in and out of McCarran during July, but that figure is expected to drop to 159 flights per week in August.
Earlier this month, Allegiant announced plans to begin nonstop service between McCarran and two additional markets in October.
On Oct. 4, Allegiant will begin twice-a-week service between Las Vegas and Pueblo, Colo.
Last week, Allegiant announced plans for twice-a-week nonstop service between McCarran and the Quad City International Airport, which services the communities of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island, Ill. The flights begin Oct. 14.
A spokeswoman for Allegiant said the airline is planning to announce service between Las Vegas and another new market later this week.
Allegiant's rise in the rankings also coincided with two downsizing moves.
U.S. Airways, once McCarran's No. 2 air carrier, announced late last year plans to cut its service to and from Las Vegas in half by February. The Tempe, Ariz.-based airline flew 180,551 passengers to and from McCarran in July, down 53.9 percent compared to July 2009.
Also, Northwest Airlines merged with Delta Airlines earlier this year and the air carrier's passengers counts are now part of Delta, removing the airline from the listing.
Southwest Airlines, however, continued to be McCarran's largest air carrier. The Dallas-based airline flew 1,412,510 passengers in and out of McCarran in July, up 0.5 percent compared with 1,405,593 passengers carried July 2009.
For the first seven months of the year, Southwest has flown more than 9.1 million passengers in and out of McCarran, a decline 0.3 percent for the year.
Delta is the No. 2 carrier to and from McCarran, with 356,069 passengers in July and 2.4 million through the year's first seven months.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871.