McCarran International Airport had a buzz about it Friday afternoon as droves of travelers arrived for what was expected to be a busy weekend in Las Vegas.
Groups of women’s collegiate sports teams, families and groups of friends were among the many who populated the Terminal 1 baggage claim area.
McCarran spokesman Joe Rajchel said passenger traffic had been steadily increasing over the past month, and that trend is expected to continue as capacity limits are increased and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The majority of the travelers wore masks, with social distancing thrown out the window for a moment as travelers retrieved their bags from the various carousels.
The crowds didn’t linger long, though, as most were in a rush to get to their destination to get the weekend started.
For some, that meant grabbing a shot of alcohol from a March Madness-themed pop-up bar set up for the weekend in the Terminal 1 baggage claim area.
With March Madness, spring break and St. Patrick’s Day weekend converging, some tourists said they were visiting for the same reasons that draw many on weekends.
John Sokolik from Omaha, Nebraska, was part of a group of about a dozen people traveling from various parts of the country to celebrate his friend’s 50th birthday.
“For me it was a last-second thing, but he (the friend) has had it planned for a while,” Sokolik said. “I wasn’t planning on coming, but at the last second I decided to come.”
Sokolik said his flight from Nebraska was full, so he was expecting McCarran to be as well. Although the airport was busy, Sokolik, who has been to Las Vegas a handful of times pre-COVID, said it wasn’t as packed as on his other trips.
Sokolik said he is comfortable with the coronavirus regulations in place.
“I’m completely vaccinated,” he said.
The birthday group is staying at the Bellagio and is ready for a good time, regulations in place or not.
“COVID is going to kind of change the face of Vegas, as it has the rest of the world,” he said. “So we’ll just have to wait and see what it looks like. I was just hoping the weather would be a little warmer than what it is, but that’s about it.”