Airport passenger slide not as steep in April

Nearly 3.6 million people arrived and departed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas in April, a 5.9 percent decline from the same month last year.

Through the first four months of the year, 13.3 million passengers flew in and out of McCarran, a decline of 12 percent from the 2008 pace.

The numbers show Las Vegas is still suffering from a global recession that’s hindering travel, but the decline is slowing from monthly double-digit drops that were occurring in late 2008 and early this year.

Las Vegas room rates have fallen dramatically and, combined with fare sales by airlines, have created vacation deals some customers are finding too good to pass up.

"We’re seeing a lot of traction from our fare sales," said Brad Hawkins, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines.

Southwest, the carrier with the largest presence at McCarran, hauled more than 1.3 million people through Las Vegas in April, a decline of less than 1 percent and well below the 5.5 percent rate of decline they’ve posted for the first four months of 2009 combined.

The airline on Tuesday was advertising fares to Las Vegas as low as $57 one-way from Southern California, $75 from Denver and $114 from Columbus, Ohio – a distance of 2,006 miles by car.

"People are flying, the flights are doing well," Hawkins said.

Even with rock-bottom room rates and airline fare specials, there is still a long ways to go before the Las Vegas economy can be considered in recovery.

A closer look at the airline totals shows a mix of depressing and hopeful indicators.

US Airways, the second-largest carrier to Las Vegas, is still losing customers at a prodigious rate. The airline fell another 26.1 percent in April to 466,174 arrivals and departures. For the year, US Airways is off 32.3 percent from the 2008 pace.

United, the third-largest carrier at McCarran, dropped 11.6 percent in April and is off 10.2 percent for the year.

Delta fell 4.9 percent in April and is down 9.6 percent in the first four months of 2009.

American was the only carrier in the top five Las Vegas airlines to post an increase. It flew 194,702 people to and from McCarran in April, an increase of 9.8 percent. For the year American’s Las Vegas traffic is up 2.1 percent.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air was up 21 percent for the month to 158,026 arrivals and departures. For the year through April, Allegiant is up 8.8 percent to 559,833.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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