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Reno airline capacity still trails pre-recession levels

Airline seat capacity has grown at Reno-Tahoe International Airport over the past 2½ years, but it still hasn’t reached levels prior to the Great Recession, the Nevada Commission on Tourism was told Wednesday.

About 5 million seats are flown into the airport serving Reno on nine airlines from 23 destinations, thanks in part to marketing efforts by the Regional Air Service Corp., which receives funding from the commission. In 2008, capacity at the airport that is key to Northern Nevada’s rural tourism economy, was 6.5 million seats.

By comparison, capacity at McCarran International Airport is around 28.3 million seats a year.

Stephen Ascuaga, corporate director of business development for Reno’s Peppermill resort and vice chair of the Regional Air Service Corp., said capacity in Reno has grown between 3.2 percent to 9.4 percent annually since 2014.

Like Las Vegas, which develops air service through a partnership between McCarran and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Reno-Tahoe seeks to build air service by bolstering relationships with existing air carriers serving the market and seeking opportunities with foreign carriers on international routes.

The corporation is supported by the Reno Airport Authority, Truckee-Tahoe Airport, six destination marketing organizations, including the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, eight hotels and casinos and four business entities, including the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. The commission provides $50,000 of the corporation’s annual budget of $750,000 to $1 million.

Reno, which courts seasonal air service to support Lake Tahoe’s ski season, has struggled to attract international flights because of a lack of staffing from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Reno has twice-weekly nonstop flights from Guadalajara on Volaris Airlines, but the lack of Customs staffing forced the cancellation of planned nonstop service between London and Reno on Thomas Cook Airlines. The corporation is also seeking flights from Vancouver, British Columbia, on WestJet Airlines.

Wednesday’s meeting marked a return to the commission by two former lieutenant governors, who were appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to fill vacancies. Joining the commission were former Lt. Govs. Bob Cashell and Brian Krolicki.

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

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