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Reid Airport hits another passenger record

Updated August 31, 2022 - 7:54 pm

Harry Reid International Airport welcomed a record number of passengers for the second straight month, the Clark County Department of Aviation reported Wednesday.

The airport serving Las Vegas saw 4.86 million passengers in July, a 17.2 percent increase over July 2021. The total beat the previous record of 4.69 million passengers set in June.

The record was no surprise since the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has said airline passenger capacity has been on a steady climb, with domestic air carriers adding flights and larger planes and international arrivals increasing after being grounded by the coronavirus pandemic. But whether the growth is sustainability has some experts taking a pause.

Amanda Belarmino, assistant professor at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, said it will be difficult to sustain passenger growth at the airport in inflationary times.

“The continued traffic to our airport shows that Las Vegas continues to be the entertainment capital of the world,” Belarmino said. “Despite record-breaking inflation, we continue to welcome visitors. However, with the evidence of an economic slowdown, it is hard to predict how long this may last.

“There is already evidence regarding changes in consumer behavior such as decreased tips and switching to lower-cost restaurants,” she said. “We may start to see a softening of room rates in order to keep this demand.”

Still on the upswing

Gaming industry analyst Brendan Bussmann said he wasn’t surprised by the report.

“It doesn’t surprise me considering the volume you see coming in and out of Las Vegas over the summer, especially as we’ve seen the return of international guests to be able to come back to the destination without any sort of inhibitor with a (COVID-19) test or anything else,” Bussmann said. “It shows the staying power Las Vegas has as a destination.”

Bussmann, an industry analyst with Las Vegas-based B Global, said he thinks increasing numbers are sustainable for the foreseeable future because international and business travel has not fully returned.

“I think heading into the fall, we hope that the convention business will pick up,” he said. “It’s a segment that’s still down. And, I think there’s still room for growth on the international side as that returns. The question becomes what does the domestic side look like when we hit a lowering of travel, especially among the leisure customer. The business customer usually kicks in instead.”

Josh Swissman, founding partner of the Las Vegas-based Strategy Organization, said the level of passengers is what surprised him.

“It’s even more amazing because before the pandemic and all that craziness that came along with it, the summer months on the Strip were always good, but they weren’t gangbusters,” Swissman said. “Now, it’s those summer months that are setting records in terms of airlift.”

Swissman believes volume is sustainable — but not growth percentages.

“We’ll stay steady in these strong levels which means that year over year or month over month, growth rates will slow down a little bit,” he said. “That’s got to happen. You can’t sustain these types of growth rates for extended periods of time. I don’t think anybody is expecting that or believes that to be the case.”

International travelers soar

The international growth level is what stood out in July.

The airport reported 256,081 international passengers arriving and departing for the month, a 297.5 percent increase over July 2021. For the year, the growth rate was 426.2 percent to an estimated 1.3 million passengers.

On the domestic side, there were 4.52 million passengers, an increase of 12.4 percent, with the seven-month total now at an estimated 27.3 million passengers, a 40.4 percent increase over last year.

Market leader Southwest Airlines continued to dominate passenger counts at Reid. The Dallas-based airline reported 1.72 million passengers for the month, a 13.4 percent increase over last July.

Deep-discounters Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines were a distant second and third with 683,609 and 442,266 passengers, respectively. Their percentages were up 34.4 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively.

Large network carriers Delta Air Lines and American Airlines suffered passenger declines for the month. Delta was down 3 percent to 406,855 passengers while American dropped by 3.2 percent to 390,964.

On the international side, Canadian discounter Westjet reported 52,841 passengers, a 1,414.5 percent increase over July 2021. Mexican discounter Volaris paced passenger counts from Mexico with 22,066 passengers, a 9.7 percent decline from the previous year.

Among European air carriers, British Airways led the pack with 17,788 passengers. It had no flights a year ago. Korean Air, which recently returned to Reid, had 3,397 passengers in July.

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

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