McCarran Airport reaches 50 million-passenger milestone

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McCarran Airport has sustained 14 consecutive months of passenger growth.
McCarran Airport has sustained 14 consecutive months of passenger growth.
Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

McCarran Airport in Las Vegas is ascending to new heights for passenger growth while consistently achieving good marks for customer satisfaction.

The airport welcomed its 50 millionth passenger of the year on Dec. 19, the first time it has reached that milestone in its 71-year history. This marks the third consecutive year the airport will set an all-time passenger record. The previous record was 49.7 million, set in 2018. The all-time high for passengers in a single month was also achieved in May (4.59 million) and then eclipsed in October (4.6 million).

Travelers are taking advantage of low-cost carriers to visit Las Vegas. Frontier Airlines is up 75% this November over November 2018. It is also up 30.9% at this point of the year over last year. Spirit Airlines is also up 23.5% over this point last year.

November was the 14th consecutive month of passenger growth at McCarran. It was also the ninth consecutive month McCarran has served more than 4 million passengers. The final 2019 passenger count will be released in January.

"Reaching the 50 million-passenger milestone is a momentous occasion for our airport and the Southern Nevada community at large," said Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County director of aviation. "The whole team at McCarran is so grateful to those 50 million passengers who chose to fly to Las Vegas."

A water-cannon salute welcomed an Allegiant flight from San Antonio, with the 50 millionth passenger. Showgirls greeted passengers who received gift bags at their arrival gate. They were then escorted to a reception at baggage claim. One passenger, Hilda Black, who traveled to Las Vegas with her husband, Robert, and son, Logan, was chosen as the honorary 50 millionth passenger. She received a Las Vegas-themed prize pack courtesy of various corporate partners.

"We know McCarran is the first and last look at Las Vegas for travelers, and the airport experience influences their decision to return," Vassiliadis said. "With this achievement, we can say confidently we are not just meeting but exceeding passenger expectations."

Earlier this year, Vassiliadis said the airport could handle 10 million more passengers a year before another long-discussed airport in the region is needed to accommodate growth.

McCarran is the nation's ninth-busiest airport and serves almost 30 airlines with nonstop service to more than 150 destinations. The U.S. Customs & Border Protection operation at the airport cleared almost 1.1 million passengers in fiscal year 2019, setting a record and the first time the airport exceeded 1 million passengers in a 12-month span.

The airport added new international operations this year, including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, El Al and the European low-fare flyer Level. "This has opened up new fantastic routes and opportunities for passengers wanting to travel to Las Vegas and also for locals who are wanting to explore other parts of the world," said Joe Rajchel, public information administrator at the airport.

A short drive from the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran makes a distinct impression on travelers with its 1,400 slot machines, aviation museum and art installations.

Among the accolades McCarran has received this year:

• McCarran ranked sixth among larger airports in a Wall Street Journal survey using five measures of operations, such as on-time arrivals; five measures of value, such as average fare; and five measures of convenience, including a grade from readers.

• The airport tied for third in the J.D. Power 2019 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.

• InsureMytrip.com ranked McCarran the 17th least stressful of 75 U.S. airports, based on cancellation rates.

"Las Vegas is the world's premier destination for business and leisure, but we couldn't continue to grow visitation and maintain our reputation for superior customer experience without the team at McCarran International Airport and their relentless dedication to overall excellence," said Steve Hill, CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

In a presentation at the Governor's Global Tourism Summit in November, Hill noted the close working relationship between the LVCVA and McCarran to increase air traffic.

"The LVCVA's partnership with McCarran Airport is unique around the country," Hill said. "The destination marketing organizations and the airports really don't work in as formal a partnership as we do in any major city. It has paid dividends for Las Vegas. It has allowed us to combine our resources to bring flights."

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