McCarran passenger count dips in February

What a difference a day makes.

In February, 3 million passengers passed through McCarran International Airport — 3.7 percent drop compared with the same month last year.

But in reporting traveler numbers Friday, McCarran management took pains to note that 2012 was a leap year, meaning that last February had 29 days.

Based on a daily average, airport traffic was essentially flat in February, down 0.3 percent.

Among the five largest airlines to come to Las Vegas, only American grew its passenger count as it prepares to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy and pursue its announced merger with US Airways. Even locally based Allegiant Air, which has grown rapidly in recent years, had its flier count drop 3.8 percent.

Market leader Southwest’s passenger count dropped 1.4 percent when its results were combined with subsidiary AirTran.

Besides American, tiny Sun Country was the only domestic carrier to show passenger-count growth during the month. The total domestic traffic count fell 4.2 percent to 2.7 million, reflecting airlines’ continued tight hold on flight schedules and a bias toward cities with large numbers of business travelers willing to pay higher fares than the vacationers who dominate Las Vegas flights.

Based on the current schedules compiled by McCarran, March or April will not look much better.

Both months show declines of about 1 percent in the number of seats coming into McCarran, with gains in international flights more than offset by domestic reductions. May and June show growth of about 2.5 percent.

The schedules matter to the crucial visitor industry. Surveys have consistently shown that people who arrive by air spend more and stay longer than those who drive here.

During February, international passenger traffic rose
2.4 percent, to 219,000, on a mixed performance.

Buoyed by an expanded schedule, British Airways’ passenger count was up 15.4 percent, the strongest gain of any of the airlines serving McCarran for at least one year. At the same time, archrival Virgin Atlantic’s flier count was up 0.1 percent.

Some fliers, including Panama’s Copa and Mexico’s Interjet, were new. Philippine Airlines and Mexico’s Vivaaerobus both pulled out.

Canada’s Westjet, with more than one-third of the international traffic, grew its flier count by 2 percent, a much slower pace than in recent years.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
or 702-387-5290.

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