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Casino owner’s giveaway of 2,000 flights to Las Vegas gone quickly

Updated May 27, 2020 - 6:31 pm

Derek Stevens is cleared for takeoff.

The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate co-owner is heralding his resorts’ June 4 reopening by giving away 1,000 one-way flights to Las Vegas from 24 U.S. cities.

The 1,000 flights sold out in less than two hours and another 1,000 were added at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Those flights were gone by 4:55 p.m., and there are no more flights to be added.

“We knew there was a high demand for Las Vegas, and to see these flights sell out as quickly as they did is overwhelming and exciting,” Stevens said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “Whether people decide to visit my casinos or explore other parts of the city, this is a strong indicator of how Las Vegas can quickly be restored to its former glory.”

Stevens’ flight plan is dubbed “Keep America Flying.” This is simply an initiative to boost travel across the country, one free trip at a time.

“This is a way for Las Vegas to be respectful of the fly-in market,” Stevens said in a phone chat Wednesday morning. “The drive-in market is very important, but with what’s happened to the airlines, that industry has really been decimated. We wanted to come up with something that helps the U.S. airline industry, and helps support Las Vegas.”

The campaign kicked off Wednesday morning on the D Las Vegas website. Flights are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Participating airlines include Allegiant, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Sun Country Airlines. Eligible cities and airports include Appleton, Wisconsin (ATW); Austin, Texas (AUS); Atlanta (ATL); Boise, Idaho (BOI); Chicago (ORD); Cincinnati (CVG); Dallas (DFW); Denver (DIA); Detroit (DTW); Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS); Louisville, Kentucky (SDF); Memphis, Tennessee (MEM); Milwaukee (MKE); Minneapolis (MSP); Oklahoma City (OKC); Omaha, Nebraska (OMA); Phoenix (PHX); Portland, Oregon (PDX); San Diego (SAN); San Francisco (SFO); Seattle (SEA); Sioux Falls, South Dakota (FSD); South Bend, Indiana (SBN); and Tulsa, Oklahoma (TUL).

Those who click to the D Las Vegas site will be connected with a D Las Vegas concierge who will complete the flight booking. Obviously, Stevens prefers those who enter the campaign to stay at the D or Golden Gate. But tourists can also book the flight and stay at another Vegas hotel. The offer does not extend to Stevens’ under-construction Circa, scheduled to open in December.

“I’m happy if people want to stay with us, obviously,” Stevens said. “But at the same time, if they say, ‘I just want the flight. I’m staying at Wynn, or Caesars or Bellagio. That’s great, too. We’ve just got to get people out to Las Vegas.

“McCarran airport is the lifeblood of our community.”

Stevens was in talks with airlines Tuesday night.

“We have been able to book in large quantities and were going late into the night to book a couple more cities,” Stevens said. “We do a lot of business with Midwestern cities, with the D and the Golden Gate, so we wanted to hit that. But we wanted to get cities throughout the country that wanted to participate and had flight availability.”

“We expect them to be booked pretty quickly,” Stevens said.

Stevens locked in rates when demand was at an all-time low. The prices Stevens paid for the flights are set, even as demand is expected to rise after the June 4 reopening announcement.

Asked to specify how much his company invested in the campaign, Stevens paused, then chuckled, “I don’t want to get into specifics, but we got some pretty good deals.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

An earlier version of this story said that 700 flights were added at 3 p.m.

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