McCarran count continues to slide

Even one of the biggest-ever trade shows in Las Vegas couldn’t lift passenger traffic at McCarran International Airport out of a five-month slump.

The number of air passengers going to and from Las Vegas fell 1.7 percent to 4.1 million in March, despite whatever boost a massive construction show provided to the bottom line.

It’s the fourth month-over-month decline at McCarran since November, when traffic dipped 2.4 percent.

The airport did manage to log an increase greater than 3 percent in February, but it was almost entirely credited to the extra day that came with leap year.

The March decline was led by a 24 percent decrease in US Airways passengers. US Airways, which carries more passengers to Las Vegas than any airline besides Southwest, has for months been shedding traffic to and from McCarran and dedicating resources to more profitable routes.

The airline reported this week that it lost $236 million during the first quarter, mostly because of rising fuel costs.

“The large losses posted by U.S. airlines this quarter, the forecast for further losses and the recent liquidations and bankruptcies of a number of carriers indicate quite clearly that the U.S. airline industry is in financial turmoil,” US Airways CEO Doug Parker said in a statement in response to the downturn.

The airline plans further cuts to its national network. It is also eliminating “ultralow” fares, prices it offered on flights of less than 500 miles.

Those flights are typical of the kind people might use for an impulse trip to Las Vegas.

United Airlines, which has raised fares three times in the past three weeks, posted a 12 percent decline at McCarran to about 266,000 passengers for the month.

American and Delta were flat in March and Southwest posted an increase of more than 4 percent.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air posted an 11 percent increase to more than 173,000 arriving and departing passengers on the month, making it the seventh-largest air passenger supplier to McCarran.

Nearly 11.3 million travelers have passed through McCarran this year, a drop of less than 1 percent.

The comparison to March 2007 was down even though this year Las Vegas hosted the ConExpo-Con/Agg construction show. The show, which occurs every three years, attracted a record attendance of nearly 145,000 people.

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

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