McCarran passenger traffic down 1.2 percent in September

Passenger counts at McCarran International Airport fell in September, but not the double-digit declines experienced in previous months.

Nearly 3.34 million travelers came through McCarran during the month, a 1.2 percent decline compared with 3.37 million for the same month a year ago.

McCarran officials began seeing air carriers cut back on flights in September 2008 because of the recession and rising fuel costs. The sour economy also caused passenger counts to drop off with fewer customers traveling on airlines.

Through September, airlines at McCarran had 30.6 million passengers, which is down 10.2 percent compared with 34.1 million passengers for the first nine months of 2008.

McCarran has seen just one monthly passenger increase since October 2007.

Southwest Airlines, McCarran’s busiest carrier, reported almost 1.26 million passengers carried to and from McCarran during September, an increase of 4.8 percent compared with 1.2 million in September 2008. However, Southwest’s passenger counts are down 3.2 percent for the first nine months of the year.

Janney Montgomery Scott gaming analyst Brian McGill said in a note to investors note last week that Southwest was planning to add six new flights into Las Vegas starting in March.

By McGill’s calculations, the flights would add 822 more seats a day into the market, a 1.2 percent increase above September’s figures.

“While this is a positive, it is going to take much more than six flights to fill the hotel capacity coming online,” wrote McGill, who said airlines need to add additional flights into Las Vegas to service new hotel rooms that will start opening next month.

US Airways continues to have the biggest declines in passenger counts. The airport’s No. 2 busiest air carrier saw a 26.4 percent decline in September and is off 33.9 percent for the year.

Other than Southwest, of McCarran’s top five scheduled airlines, only American saw its number of passengers increase in September, up 7.4 percent compared to a year ago.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at or 702-477-3871.