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Experts say 16K extra airline seats coming as a result of F1

Updated November 8, 2023 - 4:23 pm

When Formula One race fans descend on Las Vegas next week, many of them will arrive on special international flights airlines have added to their schedules.

Joel Van Over, a senior director for Ailevon Pacific, an aviation consultant that works with Harry Reid International Airport and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, estimated that between 14,000 and 25,000 additional plane seats will be coming into the Las Vegas market for the F1 race week, which kicks into high gear Nov. 16-18.

Six airlines, including four international air carriers, are adding special flights in the days before and after the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix event.

Reid officials have said there have been few charter flights scheduled to move passengers specifically for the race, but parking slots for small private aircraft bringing fans to Las Vegas have been reserved for weeks, not only at Reid but at Henderson Executive Airport and North Las Vegas Airport.

A Reid spokesperson said the only large charter flights scheduled are for after the race and are for race car crews.

Special flights

Some of the airlines and the flights they’re adding:

-Swiss leisure air carrier Edelweiss Air extended its regular twice-weekly nonstop service between its Zurich base and Las Vegas into November. Edelweiss — the official airline of the Alfa Romeo Formula One race team — normally ends seasonal service to Las Vegas in October based on its International Air Transport Association schedule, but opted to extend it an additional month to provide trips to and from Las Vegas for the race. The airline flies Airbus A340 jets carrying more than 300 passengers. In 2023, Edelweiss has flown more than 29,000 passengers to and from Las Vegas.

-British Airways, the leading passenger carrier to and from Europe, is adding two additional return flights from Las Vegas to London’s Heathrow International Airport following the race with extra flights Nov. 19 and 20. British Airways, which has flown more than 216,000 passengers to Las Vegas in 2023, offers daily service between Las Vegas and Heathrow and flights three times a week between Las Vegas and London’s Gatwick International Airport.

-Aeromexico, which offers daily service between Mexico City and Las Vegas, has added two round trips from Mexico City on Nov. 15 and 16 and on Nov. 19 and 20. The second-busiest air carrier between Mexico and Las Vegas has carried more than 101,000 passengers to the city in 2023.

-Mexican discount carrier Viva Aerobus, which has daily service between Mexico City and Las Vegas and four weekly flights between Monterrey and Las Vegas, added an extra flight from Monterrey on Nov. 15.

-American Airlines, the fifth busiest domestic air carrier at Reid, is adding a special route Nov. 15, 16, 19 and 20. On those dates, special flights are planned between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Reid. American doesn’t normally fly a nonstop route between those airports, but is adding flights to accommodate F1 fans. In the past, American has added special flights for events such as the annual CES convention in January. The Fort Worth-based airline already has announced it will have special additional flights before and after Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas in February.

-Alaska Air on Wednesday confirmed that it is adding 21 new round trips between Las Vegas and Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles International Airport and Portland, Oregon, next week. In addition, the airline is upgauging — providing higher capacity planes than normal — on three existing round trips.

Calculating F1’s impact

Van Over said determining exactly how many additional plane seats are coming into the market specifically for F1 is difficult because Las Vegas’ international market is continuing to recover and grow from declines that began during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Van Over’s team, which includes Reid and LVCVA leaders, determined how many inbound airline seats were available four weeks before and four weeks after the race, then compared the numbers to November’s count.

He said inbound airline capacity for the week of F1 is at 716,000, which is up 79,000 from the same week in 2022. The week four weeks prior was up 65,000 from the previous year and up 54,000 seats from last year four weeks after. That led him to conclude that between 14,000 and 25,000 more seats have been added due to the F1 race.

Learning experience

“Ultimately, I think we will learn a lot about F1 demand profiles from this race,” Van Over said in an email. “While the F1 race hasn’t risen to the level of CES for additional international service, we think there is a real opportunity for airlines to target this slower week in November for added service into Las Vegas. The opportunity cost for airlines is lower at this time of year, so the data we are able to gather from this inaugural race will be very helpful in building the business case for added service in future years.”

General aviation flying is expected to dominate the city’s airspace for Formula One and the Clark County Department of Aviation has been planning for months to accommodate the heavy volume of corporate jets expected to bring fans to the race.

Clark County Aviation Director Rosemary Vassiliadis said in a recent interview that there will be two types of planes coming into Las Vegas for the race: the wide-bodied, heavy cargo planes that will carry race cars and equipment, which will fly into Reid, and fans and participants, who are expected to fly in and park at either Henderson or North Las Vegas. Because plane sizes vary, it’s unclear exactly how many aircraft will be parking at the three airports, but it’s estimated that around 400 planes will stay overnight.

Because an international crowd is expected for F1, Vassiliadis said representatives of U.S. Customs and Border Protection would be stationed at the reliever airports as well as Reid to accommodate international arrivals.

In addition to planes that will park overnight, aviation officials anticipate a high level of drop-and-go traffic — planes landing, dropping off passengers, taking on fuel and then taking off and parking elsewhere.

Special event fees have been imposed for landing at all three Clark County-administered airports during the Formula One event. Higher fees are routinely imposed for special events based on demand and the airports are asking a $3,000 landing fee at all airports.

Most aviation leaders view the 2023 F1 race experience as a learning experience for future years with races planned in November for the next decade.

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

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