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Gaming Guru

Laura Carroll
 

Hurricane Sandy means fewer people leaving Las Vegas

30 October 2012

LAS VEGAS -- When Keith and Deb Berner went to McCarran International Airport on Monday morning, they didn't expect problems. Their destination, Cleveland, was well out of Hurricane Sandy's way, and they had a nonstop flight. Still, United Airlines had canceled the 10:55 a.m. departure.

"We were willing to go to Indianapolis, Detroit, Nashville, Charlotte, but there was nothing," Keith Berner said.

Instead, United shifted them to Delta Air Lines for an 11:30 p.m. flight to Cincinnati, from where they could rent a car to drive to Cleveland to pick up their car and then drive home to Millersburg, about two hours away in Ohio Amish country.

"We're going back to the Strip and maybe a movie theater," said Deb Berner. "But I don't have a whole lot of hope that this flight will make it. We could be here until Wednesday."

The couple had checked out of New York-New York, after arriving on Friday morning, and did not look forward to an extended vacation. "When you are ready to go home, you are ready to go home," she said.

They and a couple of friends were even mulling the idea of renting a car for what would be about a 30-hour drive. The cheapest rental for a compact car would have been $565, according to Orbitz.com.

As of 1:30 p.m., flightstats.com showed 32 flights had been deleted from the McCarran roster, mainly to cities such as Boston, New York, Washington and Baltimore. The large majority of average 471 daily nonstop flights from Las Vegas go to places well west of the storm.

As the storm approached the East Coast, local companies with eastern outposts braced themselves.

Cancellations

Caesars Entertainment, for instance, closed its four Atlantic City properties at noon Sunday. Spokesman Gary Thompson said the company had no reports of heavy damage , but it doesn't expect to see the brunt of Sandy until Monday evening .

As for Las Vegas, Caesars' properties had some cancellations for bookings here because of flight stoppages in the affected areas on the East Coast.

"That stoppage has also caused some travelers and conventioneers who were staying at our properties here to lengthen their stays until they can get flights home," Thompson wrote in an email.

Caesars Entertainment is set to release third-quarter earnings Wednesday, and the company expects to have more information related to the impact from Sandy then.

Las Vegas-based Tatyana Designs Inc., parent company of Bettie Page Clothing, also is feeling the effects from Sandy. The Bettie Page stores in Philadelphia and Boston are closed, but co-CEO Jan Glaser is expecting them to reopen Wednesday.

The brand's two Las Vegas boutiques, though, are seeing sales increases of about 10 percent.

"We have noticed a spike in business because people are staying," Glaser said. "We had a very strong Sunday."

Tatyana Designs operates one Bettie Page boutique in the Forum Shops at Caesars and one in Miracle Mile. As for what the future holds as a result of Sandy, Glaser couldn't be certain.

"It's hard to gauge these things exactly."

"As frugal as possible"

And for travelers, it's hard to gauge when they might get to return home.

Leanne Weiss of Riverdale, N.J., had come out to Vegas on Friday with six friends for a quick getaway at the Hard Rock Hotel that was supposed to end on Sunday morning. Instead, her US Airways flight to Newark was scrubbed, so she was shifted to a United flight on Tuesday and another cancellation.

"I'm trying to be as frugal as possible," she said, as she stood in a United line on Monday morning. "Las Vegas isn't exactly a cheap city."

But after hearing reports from home that the Jersey shore and areas near her home in the northern part of the state were already flooding, she was resigned to being stranded until Wednesday.

Sue Cook is part of a group of four from Lyndhurst, Ontario, who started a tour of the West that included Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park on Oct. 22. But the storm grounded their plans to fly to the United hub at Washington-Dulles International Airport, connect to Syracuse, N.Y., then drive home.

With three of them retired and one "kind or working," a delay was no big deal.

"We just figure it's fate, steering us back to the slot machines," she said.

Or in some cases, back to the shops.

Angie Hurt, manager of the Bonanza Gift Shop at 2440 Las Vegas Blvd. South, said she is expecting the store to be busier than normal this week because of Sandy.

"There's quite a few people in town, more so than normal for a Monday," Hurt said. "Whenever there's a storm, you have people doing retail therapy."

She described a scene of shoppers wandering around the Bonanza Gift Shop on Sunday afternoon, talking on cell phones to loved ones back East.

"I've heard a few," Hurt explained. "And they have nowhere else to go, so they go shopping and to restaurants."

Staying longer

Some of them, though, chose to take a tour.

Big Horn Wild West Tours, for instance, received a few guests from New York-New York who were staying in Las Vegas longer than anticipated because of Sandy. Big Horn's owner, Bill Cavenagh, estimated that he would receive about a dozen extra bookings from folks who are forced to stick around. On the flip side, he also anticipated that many will cancel - he already has had a couple from Pennsylvania cancel a Death Valley tour.

"That was just the start of it. I'm curious to see how it's going to go the next couple days," Cavenagh said. "We rely so heavily on air transportation (to bring) people in and out of Las Vegas. Las Vegas is so unique in that aspect. It is a big concern, but like anything else, we'll get through it."

At The Gun Store, nothing out of the ordinary has happened, although customers have been commenting that they're stuck in town because their flights are canceled.

Cirque du Soleil reported it has had "minimal" hurricane-related ticket cancellations at its seven Las Vegas shows.