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McCarran numbers stay flat for January

Thanks to an increase from international air carriers, McCarran International Airport experienced relatively flat passenger traffic in January compared to a year ago.

In January, 3.015 million passengers came through the airport, a decline of 0.2 percent from 3.021 million passengers in January 2009, according to figures released Wednesday by the Clark County Department of Aviation.

The report reflected a reduction in service to and from Las Vegas that had been announced by US Airways, McCarran’s second-busiest air carrier.

In October, Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways said it was cutting in half the number of flights it operates in and out of Las Vegas. The reduction was to be phased in between December and February.

However, international travel through McCarran helped offset those losses.

In January, 149,165 international passengers arrived and departed the airport, about 6.5 percent higher than in the same month a year ago.

The numbers reflected 13,656 passengers from British Airways, which began operating direct service between London and Las Vegas in October. Also, Westjet Airlines, which offers service between Las Vegas and several Canadian cities including Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia, had almost 13,000 more passengers in January, a 20.8 percent increase.

Aviation Department Director Randall Walker said the airport has worked with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the hotel-casino industry to pitch McCarran as a stop for international air carriers.

The move toward international visitation has become a focus of Strip resorts as a way of substituting for lost domestic customers who have reduced discretionary spending because of the economy.

“It’s something we’ve done for the past couple of decades,” Walker said. “It takes time to plant the seed and look at the potential profitable routes for air carriers.”

Walker pointed to Virgin Atlantic Airways, Korean Air and Philippine Airlines as successful pitches.

Also, a company called XL will begin nonstop flights between Paris and McCarran this spring.

“It’s in line with what the convention authority and the hotels have done to market Las Vegas as an international destination.” Walker said.

On the domestic front, Southwest Airlines continued to be the airport’s top air carrier, with almost 1.21 million passengers in January, a 6.1 percent increase from a year ago.

American Airlines, McCarran’s fourth-busiest air carrier, reported a 4.7 percent increase in customer traffic, the only other airlines besides Southwest to report an increase.

Southwest accounted for roughly 40 percent of McCarran’s total passenger base in January.

US Airways reported 232,717 passengers in January, a 43.6 percent decline compared with 412,639 passengers a year ago.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

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