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LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Passenger counts at McCarran International Airport fell 6.2 percent in February as the full impact of cutbacks by US Airways were felt.
The Clark County Department of Aviation said Monday 2,848,833 passengers came through the airport in February, down from 3,036,715 passengers in the same month a year ago.
US Airways, which said in the fall it was cutting its service into Las Vegas in half, suffered a 52 percent decrease in passenger counts during February, dropping the airline one notch to become McCarran's third-busiest air carrier.
United Airlines is now No. 2 in terms of airline service at McCarran, with 196,234 passengers carried during February.
Southwest Airlines, McCarran's No. 1 air carrier, flew 1,120,543 million passengers in February, a decline of 3.2 percent compared with a year ago. For the first two months of the year, Southwest Airlines' passenger counts are up 1.4 percent.
American Airlines was McCarran's only top five air carrier that showed an increase in passenger counts. The airline, which is ranked fourth at McCarran in terms of service, increased its passenger figures by 4 percent in February.
For the first two months of 2010, passenger counts at McCarran are down 3.2 percent compared with the first two months of 2009.
Several of McCarran's smaller air carriers saw their passenger counts increase during February. Westjet Airlines, which services several Canadian cities, was up 13.7 percent during the month. Frontier Airlines carried 23.3 percent more passengers in February while Northwest Airlines was up 21.6 percent.
In the newly released Las Vegas Visitor Profile, The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said 42 percent of Las Vegas visitors in 2009 came by way of airlines, which was down 1 percentage point from last year and 5 percentage points from 2005.
"In tough economic times, travelers tend to stay closer to home," Kevin Bagger, the convention authority's senior director of marketing, said Monday. "They will drive to a destination rather than fly."
Wall Street analysts who follow the casino industry are hopeful McCarran officials will be able to bring new airlines into the airport or entice current air carriers to add more flights.
The Aviation Department has retained a traffic consultant to study federal passenger data and find markets that appear to support direct flights. Officials from McCarran and the convention authority will then present their case to the airlines.
"Many airline route planners have not been to Las Vegas at all or not in the last 10 to 15 years," Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the authority, said in a Sunday story in the Review-Journal. "The city has changed a lot since then."
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