An empty middle seat has become a rarer luxury on flights from McCarran International Airport.
The 3.2 million passengers that went through McCarran International Airport in December marked a 3.9 percent increase from a year ago, much in line with the trend over the past year. The gain came despite the number of seats available on planes falling a fraction of one percent, figures released by McCarran on Friday show.
This reflects the national trend among airlines, as several reported in their fourth quarter earnings that schedules would be flat or down while they try to push up occupancy levels.
In addition, fuller planes is important factor to a local visitor industry that seeks to bring more people to Las Vegas. For the full year, the passenger count hit 41.5 million, an increase of 4.3 percent and the first improvement since the combination of recession and US Airways’ dismantling of its Las Vegas hub struck in 2008. Still, McCarran finished the year more than 6 million passengers below the 2007 peak.
For December, market leader Southwest declined slightly when combined with its AirTran subsidiary, while No. 2 Delta went down 6.3 percent.
On the plus side, Las Vegas-based Allegiant was up 12.4 percent and Spirit went up 267 percent, as a result of a major expansion of its schedule that got into full gear last spring.
Passenger loads on foreign carriers, a particular marketing target, rose 17 percent for the year to nearly 2.6 million. Several airlines augments their schedules and boosted their passenger counts by at least 20 percent, including Virgin Atlantic, WestJet and AeroMexico.
As an indication of the priority placed on international flights, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority agreed to contribute $400,000-500,000 over the next 15-18 months to a joint marketing campaign with Copa. Copa announced on Thursday that it would launch four-a-week nonstop flights to its hub Panama City, Panama, starting June 27. Authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter the ads would pitch Las Vegas to other cities in Copa’s network in Central and South America.
Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
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PCT. CHANGE FROM 2010
Southwest/AirTran 0 1.9
United/Continental -7.3 -9.8
Delta -6.3 -1.8
US Airways -22.8 5.3
Allegiant 12.4 6.4
SOURCE: McCarran International Airport. Airlines ranked by annual passenger counts