‘Bomb cyclone’ storm wreaks havoc on Las Vegas travelers
In Las Vegas, 465 flights had been delayed and 83 were cancelled by Thursday evening at Reid airport, according to FlightAware.
Updated December 22, 2022 - 10:34 pm
The end of year holiday travel rush got underway across the nation Thursday, with many travelers’ plans impacted by a “bomb cyclone” that was bringing heavy snow, high winds and plummeting temperatures to much of the nation.
The weather phenomenon is expected to create blizzard-like conditions through a widespread area that will greatly impact the airport system. There is a trickle-down effect nationally when any area of the country is impacted by severe weather, and so delays or cancellations could occur at Harry Reid International Airport.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 2,300 flights into and around the U.S. had been canceled, with the majority of those in Chicago and Denver, according to airline tracking service FlightAware. In Las Vegas, 465 flights had been delayed and 83 were cancelled by Thursday evening at Reid, according to FlightAware. Airlines have also canceled 1,576 Friday flights.
An estimated 7.2 million people are expected to travel by air during the 11-day period between Friday and Jan. 2, according to AAA data.
That’s just a slice of the estimated 113 million people expected to travel during that period, which represents a 3.3 percent increase over the same timeframe last year. It’s expected to be the busiest holiday season since pre-pandemic 2019.
Around 102 million people will travel by car.
“With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday, heavier traffic can be expected through the end of the year,” Brian Ng, senior vice president of membership and travel marketing for AAA Nevada, said in a statement.
The good news for those traveling by car is that gas prices have been dropping in recent weeks. The average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.90 in Las Vegas on Wednesday and $4.01 statewide. The price in Las Vegas is down significantly from the all-time high of $5.61 per gallon set on June 16.
Related: Airlines brace for winter storms with waivers
On the roads
Those driving to and from the Las Vegas Valley should be prepared for increased traffic on most days over the 11-day stretch, though some days will see more congestion than others.
Friday is forecast to see heavy traffic on Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Primm between noon and 4 p.m., with light traffic expected on Saturday for Christmas Eve and Sunday for Christmas Day, according to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
That changes on Monday when the heaviest traffic of the Christmas weekend is expected. The RTC suggests travelers avoid the I-15 southbound to Primm between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
For the days surrounding New Year’s Eve, the RTC expects heavier than usual traffic on I-15 southbound between Las Vegas and Primm on Dec. 30, with lighter traffic predicted for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
As revelers head back to Southern California on Jan. 2, the RTC says to avoid I-15 southbound near the state line between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., unless sitting in a miles-long parking lot sounds like an enjoyable way to start 2023.
Heavier than usual traffic is forecast for I-15 southbound from state line between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Jan. 3, with light traffic expected along the stretch on Jan. 4.
For those utilizing public transportation, RTC buses will operate on a Saturday schedule Dec. 24-26 and Dec. 31-Jan. 2.
The RTC will also offer free rides on buses on all transit routes from 6 p.m. Dec. 31 through 9 a.m. Jan. 1 for New Year’s Eve. Riders can board any bus during that time without purchasing a pass or paying a fare.
In the skies
Anyone flying out of Reid airport over the holidays should be prepared for longer than usual wait times during pre-flight screening and baggage check.
Airport officials recommend arriving at the airport at least two hours before a scheduled departure, and suggest tacking on more time if you plan to park at the airport.
With the expected increase in travelers, traffic on airport roadways will be heavier than usual. Delays are expected for drivers heading to both the departure curbs and passenger pickup.
Many airport parking areas also will hit capacity, including the Terminal 1 long-term garage and the Terminal 3 economy lot. Customers will be redirected to available parking facilities, which may have different rates than the two aforementioned lots.
Airport officials recommended parking at the Terminal 3 long-term garage to avoid wasting time by trying one of the more popular lots in hopes that it won’t be at capacity.
Travelers without checked bags can go through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Terminal 3 and access their departure gate via tram.
For travelers needing to check bags at Terminal 1, a courtesy shuttle is available to transport them between terminals. The shuttle is located on Level Zero of both terminals and runs every 15 minutes.
Prepare for the security checkpoint by carrying proper identification and boarding pass and making sure not to pack or carry on any prohibited items. Visit tsa.gov to be up to date with the latest security checkpoint policies and procedures.
An increase in travelers also means more demand, and longer waits, for food and beverage options inside the airport.
Contact Mick Akers at email@example.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.