Monthly passenger counts at McCarran International Airport soared to their highest level in 5½ years in March, completing a quarter that has the airport on a pace to serve more than 40 million for the year.
The Clark County Aviation Department reported 3.8 million people used the airport in March, a 2.8 percent increase over March 2013. For the quarter, McCarran reported 10.1 million passengers, 3.5 percent more than a year ago.
March’s increase also faced a tough comparison with last year because Easter and most local spring breaks fell in March in 2013.
The total number of March passengers was the highest since August 2008 when 3.9 million passed through McCarran’s gates. The last time passenger counts eclipsed the 4 million mark was in March 2008, 4.1 million.
All categories of carrier types contributed to the March increase with the number of international passengers up 3.6 percent for the month, domestic up 2.7 percent and air tour operators, 2.9 percent.
Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said McCarran’s numbers bode well for Southern Nevada’s monthly visitation figures, which are expected to be released next week.
Tull said March and October are typically the busiest months of the year for tourism because of favorable weather and strong trade show calendars.
“This year, we had some major sporting events, March Madness and it was a good month for trade shows with ConExpo-Con/Agg, which has the largest display square footage of any show,” Tull said.
Among the largest air carriers, American Airlines, which is in the process of merging systems with US Airways, posted an 8.6 percent increase in passenger traffic to 236,865 passengers.
Southwest Airlines remains the busiest carrier at McCarran, but its March counts were flat at 1.5 million passengers.
Among the five busiest air carriers at McCarran, No. 4 American had an 8.6 percent increase, No. 3 United was up 6.9 percent to 333,956 passengers and No. 2 Delta was up 3.1 percent to 373,214.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, the No. 5 carrier at McCarran, saw its March numbers decline by 5.2 percent to 216,217, a result of seasonal schedule changes.
Several international carriers showed double-digit percentage increases for the month with Panama-based Copa Airlines leading the way with a 70.8 percent increase to 13,367 passengers.
Copa has adopted the successful British Airways and Virgin Atlantic model of one-stop connecting service to Las Vegas through a foreign hub. In Copa’s case, the airline connects South and Central American customers to Las Vegas through Panama City.
Copa responded to greater Las Vegas demand by increasing service from daily flights a year ago to 12 flights a week today.
Other international airlines with a strong March were Mexico’s Interjet, up 44.2 percent to 3,395 passengers; Aeromexico, up 42.9 percent to 20,931; and Air Canada, up 15.5 percent to 53,277. British Airways, Korean Airlines and Canada’s WestJet Airlines also experienced modest increases for the month.
Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.