Passenger counts at McCarran dip slightly in July

The airlines did their part for the local visitor industry by bringing more seats into McCarran International Airport during July, but they need to work on filling more of them.

As a result, the passenger count of 3.66 million marked a 0.2 percent dip compared to one year ago, according to the monthly traffic report released Thursday by the Clark County Department of Aviation. The pattern is similar to last year — slight monthly changes in the number of people arriving and departing Las Vegas by air at a time the Strip resorts crave more visitors in the still-unsuccessful quest to rebuild occupancy levels and average room rates to prerecession levels.

For the year to date, the trend has meant that the 24.4 million passengers is almost exactly even with the same period in 2012.

The biggest influence in July came from market leader Southwest, which was down 1.8 percent in July, or 26,600 passengers. Although all the other airlines were up as a group, it was not enough to offset the Southwest effect.

Southwest expanded its seat count into McCarran compared to last year, but did so with larger-capacity planes and fewer flights.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, which ramped up for several years at a double-digit pace, was down 0.2 percent for the months and 1.1 percent for the year. Earlier this month, Allegiant unveiled 18 new routes, all but two of them involving Florida and none for Las Vegas.

After several months of moving in opposite directions, Delta has emerged as the clear No. 2 at McCarran over United. For the year, Delta is up 3.5 percent while United, still going through adjustments after its merger with Continental, dropped 5.7 percent.

Reversing several years of decline, US Airways was up 1.1 percent in July, its first month in Concourse D next to proposed merger partner American. But, with the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the deal in court, it is unclear how that will play out in the future.

Among the other airlines, only three recorded changes in double-digit percentages: JetBlue and Frontier on the downside, and Spirit on the upside.

International traffic continued to grow, as it has for several years, but at a relatively slow 2.6 percent in July. By contrast, the gain was 5.2 percent for the year.

British Airways grew 32.9 percent in July with its expanded schedule, although Mexico’s Volaris went down 30.3 percent in the face of stronger competition from home-country rivals AeroMexico and Interjet.

Korean Airlines shot up 53 percent by scheduling more flights and larger planes to its hub at Incheon.

With 5.9 percent growth in July and 594,000 passengers this year, Canada’s WestJet remained on a pace that would make it the first foreign carrier to transport 1 million people through McCarran in one year.

The schedules set for McCarran through November at least hold out the hope of better passenger numbers, with the seat counts at a monthly average of about 2 percent. This comes as the airlines in general have started to put more planes in the air after several years of keeping a tight rein on schedules, called capacity discipline in the industry.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.