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McCarran airport could see record seat capacity by late spring

By late spring, McCarran International Airport will have more seat capacity coming into the city than at any other time in its history.

Airline development experts from Dallas-based Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting on Tuesday told the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors that growth mostly in the number of flights from international destinations is expected to boost seat capacity in May or June above 79,073, the record total calculated in December 2007.

Joel Van Over of Ailevon said current capacity is at 78,596 a day, but once new service by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from Amsterdam and El Al Airlines from Tel Aviv begins in June, capacity numbers should eclipse the 2007 total.

Southern Nevada is getting a taste of the experience this week as several airlines have added nonstop flights to McCarran from cities not normally served in support of overseas CES attendees.

Chris Jones, chief marketing officer for the Clark County Department of Aviation, showed LVCVA board members a photograph taken Monday of 11 airline brands at international gates at McCarran that had arrived from Europe and Asia.

A total of 19 round-trips are planned during CES on KLM and Air France, which don’t have regular service, to and from Amsterdam and Paris. McCarran regulars American and Delta have added flights to and from Seoul, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Paris and Shanghai.

Jones, Van Over and Ailevon’s Oliver Lamb said the added Las Vegas flights give airlines the opportunity to experience McCarran and “test the waters” for possible future service.

Ailevon officials said 2018 was a remarkable year for McCarran with six new carriers arriving at the airport and 11 new destinations. Thirty-five new routes were added to Las Vegas on 15 different airlines, including first-ever service to and from South America with LATAM service to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Two new Canadian discount carriers — Swoop and Flair — chose Las Vegas to launch their first transborder flights.

McCarran has high hopes for the new thrice-weekly KLM service to Amsterdam beginning June 6 because Amsterdam is a KLM hub and the airline serves 91 cities in Europe, 10 in Africa and six in the Middle East from there.

Domestic capacity grew 1.7 percent to 72,427 seats in 2018 while international was up 5.7 percent to 6,169. The international capacity growth was fourth best among U.S. cities.

While capacity is in a steady climb, the number of passengers served already has topped existing records. Through November, McCarran passenger counts average 67,971 a day, 2.7 percent ahead of the 11-month total recorded a year earlier. That total is 3.8 percent higher than the previous 11-month record in 2007 of 65,499 a day.

Jones is confident McCarran will have the highest yearly passenger count in its history once December totals are tabulated.

McCarran had a record 48.5 million passengers, the largest in the airport’s 70-year history, in 2017. 2018 saw three record monthly passenger counts.

In other business, the board was told that 34 convention authority employees agreed to participate in a money-saving voluntary separation program.

The authority expects to save $4.2 million in reduced payroll and benefit costs through 2020.

Employees were required to have at least five years on the job to be eligible for the separation program. Participants average 19 years on the job with a high of 35 years and a low of five.

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

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