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Do as much as you can early: Airport offers tips for holiday travel

Updated December 20, 2023 - 7:39 pm

Clark County Aviation Department officials say they expect to be as busy as Santa Claus on the days leading up to Christmas.

The department that operates Harry Reid International Airport on Tuesday produced lists and forecasts for pre-holiday travel and offered advice to those planning to fly in the days ahead.

Plus, Southwest Airlines, Reid International’s busiest commercial air carrier, announced this week how it is heading off a repeat of last year’s holiday travel meltdown that stranded thousands of passengers with flight delays and cancellations affecting customers nationwide, many in Las Vegas.

Reid International offered the same advice retail outlets gave to holiday shoppers — do as much as you can early.

With the airport and the roads leading to it filled with other holiday travelers, Reid officials said to expect higher levels of traffic that will delay getting to the departures curb and passenger pickup. They recommend arriving at the airport at least two hours before flight time — more for those parking there.

Longer lines

Food service and concession lines are expected to be long. Passengers can familiarize themselves in advance of the latest security policies and procedures by accessing www.tsa.gov for information.

Airport parking facilities are expected to reach capacity, including the Terminal 1 Long Term Garage and the Terminal 3 Economy Lot. When that happens, customers are redirected to available parking facilities.

Officials say time can be saved by heading directly to the Terminal 3 Long Term Garage. Persons traveling without checked bags can go through the TSA Security Checkpoint at T3 and access Terminal 1 departure gates via tram.

Travelers needing to check bags at Terminal 1 can use a courtesy shuttle available to transport travelers between terminals. That service is located on Level Zero of both terminals and runs approximately every 15 minutes.

If the Terminal 1 Economy Lot is full, throughout the week drivers will be redirected to an overflow economy lot, 576 Kitty Hawk Way. Allow an additional 30 minutes for a shuttle to the terminal.

Additional parking will be available at the Remote Lot located across from the Airport Rent-A-Car Center at 7140 Gilespie St. Persons parking there should allow 30 additional minutes for shuttle service.

A holiday parking forecast offered by Reid indicated the Terminal 1 Long-Term and Economy lots and the Terminal 3 Economy Lot would be at or near capacity Thursday through Jan. 1. The Terminal 3 Long-Term Lot is expected to be near capacity Friday through Sunday and Dec. 28 through Jan. 1.

Spaces are expected to be available in the Terminal 1 Overflow Economy Lot and the remote lot.

Don’t carry wrapped gifts

While wrapped gifts are not prohibited, they’re not recommended and it’s suggested that gifts be wrapped at a passenger’s destination — and that applies to gifts in checked luggage as well as in carry-on bags. If an item sets off an alarm, security officers may have to unwrap a present.

Generally, only ticketed passengers are allowed through security checkpoints. To meet an unaccompanied minor or assist a traveler with special needs, visit your airline’s ticket counter to request authorization and allow for additional time.

Airport officials also recommend using the free cell phone lot off Kitty Hawk Way to wait for a passenger’s arrival rather than orbiting around congested roadways. Once a flight arrival is confirmed by phone, meet up using the numbered columns in the pickup area to help locate the passenger.

As many travelers discovered last year, flight delays can occur when the weather is perfect where you are. Delays and cancellations can occur as a result of bad weather or air traffic control problems in other locations.

Airport officials recommend preparing for potential delays by having essentials on hand, such as snacks, child care items, medication and phone chargers.

Travelers found by experience — a bad experience — that flight delays and cancellations can be frustrating.

Southwest is prepared

Earlier this week, Southwest Airlines settled a complaint from the U.S. Department of Transportation over delays and cancellations during December 2022 travel by paying a $140 million fine.

The Dallas-based carrier, which has an average 254 daily flights and flew 1.9 million passengers to and from Las Vegas in October, said it has enhanced its customer service as a result of last year’s travel meltdown.

It implemented a Disruption Action Plan earlier this year that included the following changes: enhanced digital bag tracking to provide customers real-time information on the journey of their checked items; flight credits that don’t expire, allowing customers to retain their flight credits to use toward future travel; enhanced digital self-service capabilities, including the ability to request a refund if customers choose not to travel due to a Southwest-initiated flight cancellation; expanded rebooking options after flight cancellations; and new customer notifications during weather events that proactively provide rebooking options.

“We have spent the past year acutely focused on efforts to enhance the customer experience with significant investments and initiatives that accelerate operational resiliency, enhance cross-team collaboration and bolster overall preparedness for winter operations,” Bob Jordan, Southwest’s president and CEO said in a release.

“Our commitment to customers has been central to our success across our 52-year history and has helped us become one of the world’s most admired and trusted airlines,” he said.

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

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