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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Airport Directory Unveiled for Long Weekend

3 September 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Travelers looking to fly from Las Vegas this weekend can access a new weapon in the war against airport security delays, but just how effective that weapon will be won't be known until it's tested in Labor Day weekend's high-traffic crucible.

Last month, the Transportation Security Administration unveiled an online directory that provides the average wait times travelers should expect at airport security checkpoints throughout the United States.

By entering their state, preferred airport, date of travel and expected departure time, users can quickly obtain updated, checkpoint-specific delay averages for periods two hours before and two hours after their selected one-hour departure window.

For example, a Thursday query for flights departing Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport between 11 a.m. and noon today showed travelers headed to the D concourse should expect, on average, an eight-minute delay. Arriving an hour earlier, however, would reduce that wait to just six minutes, based on data collected at McCarran since Aug. 5.

TSA's online directory is available on the Internet at http://www.tsa.gov under the "Travel Tips" category.

Jim Blair, who oversees TSA's local operations as McCarran's federal security director, said Thursday the online averages are generally accurate, though he cautioned the estimates might not reflect the heavier-than-normal traffic that is common during holidays or busy convention periods. Both circumstances could apply this weekend, he added.

"(The Web site) allows a passenger to estimate an arrival time, with emphasis on estimate," Blair said. "But even if they look at the Web site, it says your personal experience is also due to things like weather, flight schedules, holidays or special events. ... In Las Vegas, because of the conventions, we have a lot of special events."

Also, Las Vegas has not had any large conventions or holidays in the past 28 days, the period TSA uses to determine rolling wait averages at respective airports.

Blair expects McCarran will be busiest on Friday and Sunday, though he's increased staffing levels throughout the weekend to meet expected passenger demand.

Along with the holiday, the airport could face another challenge processing stragglers from this week's Men's Apparel Guild in California trade show. That 90,000-attendee event officially ended Thursday, but visitors in town for the biannual fashion extravaganza often spend extra time here postshow to better enjoy the city's clubs, restaurants and other amenities.

Though it ranks among the city's most-popular holidays, Labor Day last year drew fewer visitors than most 2003 weekends, said Kevin Bagger, senior research director for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

"Our busiest weekends are in the spring and fall," said Bagger, who said Labor Day ranked 40th in weekend occupancy rate in 2003 with a citywide average of 89.5 percent. Friday arrivals were lower than usual, he explained, which reduced the average over the three-day weekend.

"We don't expect that to happen again this year," Bagger said Thursday.

Occupancy rates for Las Vegas' nearly 129,000 guest rooms are expected to top 92 percent this weekend, thanks to an expected 3 percent increase in visitors. The convention authority projects a daily average of 271,000 visitors this weekend, up from 263,000 per day a year ago.

Those visitors' projected nongaming economic impact is $162.7 million, up from $158.4 in 2003.