Passenger counts at McCarran rise 5.3 percent in January

Passenger counts at McCarran International Airport were off to a flying start in 2014 with January numbers up 5.3 percent over the same month a year ago.

Officials with the Clark County Department of Aviation on Wednesday reported 3.3 million passengers passed through the airport’s gates.

An airport spokesman attributed the increase to Southern Nevada’s steadily improving economy as well as a calendar anomaly that had Super Bowl revelers traveling to Las Vegas on the last day of January instead of the first day of February last year.

McCarran showed increases in all categories of carrier type, domestic and international arrivals as well as air tour operations.

Domestic operations were up 5.1 percent for the month while international arrivals climbed by 7.8 percent.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, McCarran’s busiest commercial carrier, served 1.3 million passengers for the month, a 5.3 percent increase over last year. Discount carrier Spirit Airlines, which added destinations and flights from Las Vegas last year, had a 29.7 percent bump in traffic over January 2013. Among the top five carriers, United Airlines showed a 6.3 percent decline to 267,700 passengers while Delta was off 0.1 percent to 306,901.

Among international carriers, Canada-based WestJet Airlines, the first international carrier to have annual passengers counts to Las Vegas of more than 1 million in 2013, had an 8.2 percent increase in January to 88,811 customers. Double- and triple-digit percentage increases also were recorded by Mexican carriers Interjet and Aeromexicoas well as Panamanian Copa Airlines, which last year expanded its schedule from seven to 12 flights a week.

Double-digit percentage declines in international passenger traffic were reported by Great Britain’s Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Mexican discount carrier Volaris. Both airlines saw increased competition on their routes in 2013.

McCarran officials said Southern Nevada’s busy January convention calendar fed airline traffic into the city. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority noted that this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show was better attended than last year’s event and the World of Concrete show in January also had a better-than-expected turnout.

The McCarran spokesman also noted that this year’s Feb. 2 Super Bowl may have inflated January’s passenger counts because many tourists visiting the city arrived on Jan. 31, the Friday before the game.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at revelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.