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Capacity to surge at Las Vegas airport

Updated February 14, 2024 - 10:21 am

While there are more airline seats coming into Las Vegas from a record number of destinations and international flights have recovered from the COVID-19 downturn, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is still looking for more nonstop flights from Asia.

More than 100,000 airline seats a day will become routine by summer at Harry Reid International Airport, aviation experts told the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors Tuesday.

Since October 2022, capacity has averaged around 97,000 inbound seats but on a few occasions, it has eclipsed six figures. In October 2023, capacity peaked at 104,239 seats, but retreated in the off-season winter months. Now, based on schedules released by airlines, seat capacity will climb above 100,000 beginning in April and continuing through June.

Because many flights are not 100 percent filled, total numbers of passengers are less than capacity. In 2023, Reid reported serving 57.6 million passengers, or roughly 79,000 inbound passengers a day.

“It’s never been easier to get to Las Vegas on a plane,” Joel Van Over, senior director of Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting, told the board.

Van Over and Cheryl Smith, the LVCVA’s director of air service development, said international flights are now considered fully recovered from the downturn of COVID-19.

Manchester route

A key European destination to Las Vegas will return in June when Virgin Atlantic Airways reinstates its nonstop service between Harry Reid International Airport and Manchester, England. The airline on June 2 will begin flights three days a week on an Airbus A350 jet capable of carrying 397 passengers.

But getting additional flights to and from Asia is the next big goal, LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill said.

“There’s opportunity for capacity increases in so many places because when we add a direct flight from somewhere, it does two things. One, it drives demand. We typically see about a 100 percent increase in demand from any location that we connect with a direct flight,” Hill said.

“From an international standpoint, if you get an easy one-connection flight to Vegas, that matters too. Once you have to start connecting twice, it really diminishes somebody’s desire to come.”

He acknowledged that alliances between foreign and domestic airlines is helpful, but there’s nothing better than regular dedicated nonstop service.

Currently, Korean Air is the only Asian carrier with nonstop flights to Las Vegas and thousands annually connect through Seoul on trips to the city. The LVCVA and its consultants continually negotiate with airlines to establish more flights, with a Tokyo-to-Las Vegas operation frequently under review. Northwest Airlines and Japan Airlines once flew nonstop between Narita International Airport at Tokyo and Las Vegas in the late 1990s, but service was discontinued by JAL after the 9/11 disaster.

Japan Airlines now operates a discount subsidiary called Zipair that could be in play.

Global reach

Hill said he’d also like to see additional growth in flights to and from South America and the Middle East.

Local officials recently negotiated with airlines for added service at the Routes World conference in Istanbul, Turkey, in October.

But Van Over said the past six months have seen some remarkable upticks at Reid International.

Smith said 2023 was record setting for air service development.

Comparisons with other airports show Reid was the most recovered airport in the United States in 2023. In 2023, the airport served a record number of passengers — by November.

For the first half of 2024, capacity will be up 21 percent from the first half of 2019 in Las Vegas. That’s third best behind Denver International and Orlando International airports.

Overall international capacity for Las Vegas in the first half of 2024 has recovered by 102 percent with a mixed bag by origination. Capacity is up 79 percent from Switzerland, 71 percent from the United Kingdom, 33 percent from Germany, 8 percent from Latin America, 6 percent from South Korea, 6 percent from Canada and 1 percent from Mexico.

The 16 international destinations served to Las Vegas on nine airlines means an additional 9,700 seats per week into Reid.

34 new routes

In 2023, domestically and internationally, there were 34 new routes to Las Vegas inaugurated or announced, including 16 international and 23 previously unserved.

In 2023, Reid was the sixth busiest for Transportation Security Administration screenings with 25.1 million passengers, trailing Los Angeles International, John F. Kennedy International in New York, Chicago’s O’Hare International, Orlando International and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International.

TSA screenings is off to a big start in 2024 with a record 103,978 screenings Monday, the day after the Super Bowl. An additional 85,000 screenings were expected Tuesday.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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