Boyd conference offers a peek at airline plans

Airlines are notorious for playing it close to the vest when it comes to discussing plans consumers would be interested in. But when airline executives attend an event like the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit, they tend to open up.

Maybe there’s a sense of competitive oneupsmanship in play. Whatever the reason, representatives of many of the airlines that serve McCarran International Airport talked up their companies and gave some hints about what’s on the horizon when they spoke at last month’s Boyd conference at the Wynn.

For several airlines, the big story is the effort to blend cultures and operating systems after a merger. Southwest Airlines, which gobbled up Air Tran, is in the midst of merger transition that will take months to complete.

For Southwest, the busiest commercial carrier at McCarran, the acquisition of Air Tran hasn’t been a big event locally because Air Tran has had a small presence in Las Vegas. However, the absorption of Air Tran is setting the stage for bigger things in the future for Southwest.

Andrew Watterson, vice president of network planning and performance for Southwest, was short on details for what that means for Las Vegas, but if you read between the lines, it appears Southwest has some moderate growth planned.

Southwest is selling off all the Boeing 717s Air Tran flew to competitors and beefing up its own fleet of Boeing 737s.

“We have many points of strength in the United States, Las Vegas being one of them,” Watterson said in an interview.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a recent earnings call that Southwest has identified 50 locations outside the United States that may be suitable for future Southwest growth. Some of those are in Mexico, Central America and northern South America as well as Canada.

“As we look at these new opportunities outside the continental United States, we evaluate which point of strength we want to plug into,” Watterson said. “Once we open it up, adding other gateways is just a question of connecting the dots. For us, it’s an exercise about evaluating each opportunity as they come and making that decision. So Las Vegas is not in a plan nor out of a plan per se, but it will be evaluated as we process each decision.”

Unfortunately for Las Vegas, Southwest appears to have other priorities for international flying. Its initial Mexico flying, to Los Cabos, is through John Wayne International Airport in Orange County, Calif. In addition, Southwest is investing millions in an international terminal at Houston’s Hobby Airport. The company’s first international efforts have occurred from East Coast destinations to the Caribbean. Despite Las Vegas’ efforts to expand international routes, Southwest appears to be looking at other opportunities.

McCarran will, however, be the beneficiary of the expiration of the Wright Amendment next month. When that occurs Oct. 13, Southwest will be able to fly nonstop between Las Vegas and Love Field in Dallas.

“We’re very pleased with the advanced bookings for all of our Love Field flights, post-Wright Amendment,” Watterson said. “Vegas gets some early and often flights. We’re very pleased that after being big in Dallas and big in Las Vegas, we can finally connect them.”

Ben Baldanza, CEO of Spirit Airlines, is bullish on Las Vegas and sees growth opportunities here.

“As we grow, we think Las Vegas is likely to get bigger for us,” Baldanza said in an interview. “Some of it comes from creating customer bases in places we can fly to. So as we build other cities, it’s logical to hook them up to Las Vegas. Also, there’s some international potential out of Vegas for Spirit as well (to Mexico and Central America).”

Spirit has the quirky low-fare-high- fee model similar to Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air. Baldanza defends it as the way to go in leisure markets.

“One of the things that’s true about customers who fly Spirit is that they spend less for their air travel, which means they have more money to spend where they’re going and Las Vegas fits that perfectly,” Baldanza said.

“Las Vegas is the vacation, getting to Las Vegas isn’t so much the vacation. So this idea of spending less to get there, but when you get there, stay at a beautiful property or go to a higher dollar (limit) table because you save money on the airfare. Or maybe the difference of flying Spirit or not might mean whether you go to the show you want to see or not.”

Allegiant, another disciple of the low-fare-high-fee model, has spent most of its efforts on the East Coast and in Florida lately, but it has a new city that appears to be a great fit for the airline — Cincinnati. When Delta downsized there and residents of southern Ohio and northern Kentucky took to their cars to get to lower fares, Allegiant swooped in with flights to four Florida destinations, Myrtle Beach, S.C., Phoenix and, in December, Las Vegas.

Allegiant President and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Levy said Cincinnati has been one of the best start-ups for the airline.

“It’s a market that’s just starved for low fares,” Levy said. “Everybody there is so used to getting in their cars and going to Columbus and Dayton because that’s where the low fares have been for so many years.”

It will be interesting to see what happens when Frontier Airlines — which now uses the same model as Spirit and Allegiant — begins flying to Cincinnati, duplicating many of Allegiant’s routes. Allegiant has a track record of early exits when competition arrives.

JetBlue Airways President and CEO Dave Barger all but guaranteed that as soon as his airline takes delivery of new Airbus A321 jets configured with flatbed seats in a service it calls “JetBlue Mint,” it would put some of them on its flights between Las Vegas and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“There’s definitely demand here for high-rollers,” Barger said. “It’s not a dense aircraft and most look to Las Vegas to ‘dense it up.’ That’s not what this product is about.”

Barger said in all likelihood, not every JFK-Las Vegas flight would have Mint service, but it would be an option.

Barger also had a conversation with JetBlue managers in Las Vegas about the prospect of nonstop service to and from San Juan, Puerto Rico. If that occurs, it would be the first nonstop service into the Caribbean from McCarran.

On the international front, Air Canada is ratcheting up competition with Las Vegas market leader WestJet by moving all its Las Vegas flights to its Rouge discount subsidiary.

WestJet was the first international carrier to fly more than 1 million passengers annually to Las Vegas in 2013 and in this year, WestJet is ahead of that pace.

Dig This opens new location In Las Vegas
Remember when you were a kid and played with construction toys in the sand box? Dig This Las Vegas has the same idea, except instead of toy bulldozers, you get to play with the real thing. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Town Square developer Jim Stuart building again in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ real estate bubble took developers on a wild ride, something Jim Stuart knows all too well. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Salon opens at Veterans Village
T.H.E. Salon, owned by Nicole Christie, celebrated their opening at the Veterans Village with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Southwest Airlines considering Las Vegas-Hawaii flights
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says the airline is "very focused" on Hawaii. Hawaiians have a strong presence in Las Vegas.The city’s unofficial status is “Hawaii’s ninth island.” In 2018, at least 2,958 people from Hawaii moved to Nevada. Of those, 88.7 percent moved into Clark County, according to driver license surrender data. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 310,249 people came to Las Vegas from Hawaii in 2018.
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day. About 1.2 million Nevadans are expected to celebrate this year, a 5 percent drop from 2018. A growing number of people consider Valentine’s Day over-commercialized. Others weren’t interested in the holiday or had nobody to celebrate with. But spending is expected to rise. Those who do celebrate are buying for more people. The average American is expected to spend about $162 this year for Valentine’s Day, a 57 percent jump from a decade prior. Katherine Cullen, director of industry and consumer insights at NRF
Foreclosures of mansions in Las Vegas
Las Vegas was ground zero for America's foreclosure crisis after the housing bubble burst. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Helfenbein talks about the impact of tariffs on the clothing industry
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Air flight attendants learn how to handle a water landing
Field instructor Ashleigh Markel talks about training prospective flight attendants for Allegiant Air getting live training with a raft for a water landing at the Heritage Park Aquatic Complex in Henderson on Monday. (John Hornberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery talks about Las Vegas return
Michael Feighery, CEO of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, discusses the restaurant's upcoming return to the Las Vegas Strip.
Apartments to Come to Hughes Center
Developer Eric Cohen discusses his current building project at the Hughes Center office park in Las Vegas, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Stratosphere to rebrand to The STRAT
The Stratosphere, a 1,150-foot-tall property in Las Vegas will be renamed The STRAT Hotel, Casino and Skypod.
Local designers’ picks for the Las Vegas Market
The trends that local interior designers are noticing at the Las Vegas Market this year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trends in bath products at Las Vegas Market
Camille Herd, the showroom manager for European Bath Kitchen Tile & Stone, talks about the popularity of free-standing bath tubs. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Kitchen trends at Las Vegas Winter Market
Las Vegas Winter Market displayed kitchen trends that mirror common dining accessories at Strip eateries. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Emerging trends in gifts at Las Vegas Market
Julie Smith Vincenti, curator for the First Look showroom tour on gifts and lifestyle, talks about the emerging trends in those categories for this season. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Las Vegas house prices are rising
Southern Nevada home prices were up 12 percent year-over-year in November.
Caesars Republic Scottsdale
Caesars Entertainment Corp. is building its first non-gaming hotel in the United States in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Caesars Entertainment Corp.)
Interior designer Mikel Welch talks about trends for Las Vegas Market
Interior designer Mikel Welch, who also is the on-camera designer for TLC’s Trading Spaces, discusses the trends he sees for the 2019 Las Vegas Winter Market. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
SHOT Show 2019: MEGGITT Virtual Training
MEGGIT showcases its virtual training system at SHOT Show 2019 in Las Vegas.
MGM delivers 700 meals to TSA workers at McCarran
Chefs at Garde Manger at Mandalay Bay provided 700 meals to federal employees who are affected by the government shutdown. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
SHOT Show 2019: A "nonsemi-automatic” weapon
Brandon Dunham of Nevada-based Franklin Armory show off the company’s new rifle prototype it calls a “nonsemi-automatic” weapon. The gun does not use a gas system to fire.
Las Vegas-based concrete repair company knows how to beat the heat
ART Concrete Solutions, a Las Vegas concrete-repair firm, addresses the challenges of construction in the extreme heat and sun of Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas based company brings color to concrete in the desert heat
Semco Modern Seamless Surface, a Las Vegas surface engineering company, knows how to put color in concrete construction in the Vegas heat. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Fun photo booth at World of Concrete
World of Concrete show at the Las Vegas Convention Center sponsored by DeWalt gives conventioneers a chance for photos with giant tools. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
SHOT Show 2019: Laserstar Technologies
Laerstar Technologies showed off their laser engraving machines, that can be used to personalize anything from guns and knives, to medical tools and household items. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
World of Concrete Show has big equipment on display
World of Concrete Show has big equipment on display at the Las Vegas Convention Center including an impact crusher, concrete pump and a self-erecting portable concrete batch plant. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Shot Show 2019: Kalashnikov USA shows off new products
Jonathan Mossberg of Kalashnikov USA talks about new products on display at Shot Show 2019 in Las Vegas.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing