For only the third time in the past three years, the monthly passenger counts at McCarran International Airport showed growth.
The number of people boarding and getting off flights in October was nearly 3.6 million, 2 percent more than the same month in 2009. The increase happened despite the 42 percent decline for US Airways, which late in 2009 began dismantling the hub operation it once operated here.
Nine domestic or foreign carriers, excluding the commuter carriers affiliated with the major ones, picked up the slack with growth rates in double-digit percentages. Delta, the second-largest carrier at McCarran, boosted its passenger count the most, including people travelling on both mainline flights and on its commuter affiliates flying regional jets.
US Airways began drastically cutting its flight schedule in November of last year, continuing the action through January. As a result, the year-to-year comparisons for the entire airport should look better in the future.
McCarran officials have predicted the airport’s passenger count will be flat during the fiscal year.
Both analysts and casino industry executives have expressed concerns that an economic rebound for Las Vegas would be difficult as long as airport traffic remained anemic.
“At the end of the day, to have a significant recovery for Vegas in terms of the totality of the market, we need more lift in here because the drive traffic is pretty stable,” said Michael Leven, president and chief officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., during an earnings conference call last month.
Those who stick to their cars, he added, can be siphoned off by competing casinos in California, the largest source of Las Vegas clientele.
Airlines in general have slashed their schedules and parked more planes in the desert during the past couple of years to reduce expenses and boost fares through scarcity. The average number of seats departing from McCarran during October ran 2.3 percent lower than last year at 68,800, led by the 45 percent decline for US Airways.
But within that number, several airlines have stepped up their activity. Some were due to unusual circumstances, such as Aeromexico more than doubling its capacity after the collapse of rival Mexicana in September. Frontier Airlines was up 16.7 percent, but that almost exactly replaced the cessation of service by Midwest Airlines, owned by the same parent company.
Others, however, decided to grab some market share as the financial fortunes of the industry sharply improved this year.
Delta added 5,400 seats a week, an increase of 14.3 percent, while smaller carries posting double-digit gains included Spirit at 25 percent, Airtran at 14.9 percent, JetBlue at 13.1 percent, and Allegiant at 10.7 percent.
Southwest, with by far the largest share of passengers at 39 percent, boosted its count 5.8 percent in October to 1.4 million. It did so despite holding its seat count almost identical to last year’s.
Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
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