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Airport parking fees to increase

1 August 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Parking fees at McCarran International Airport -- along with charges for cabs, limousines and buses -- are about to go up, as much as 50 percent in some cases.

The Clark County Department of Aviation, at the behest of troubled airlines who argue they pay more than their fair share to run the airport, will increase transportation and parking fees Sept. 9 in an attempt to eliminate an operating deficit in the parking and roadways segment of the budget that grew to $7.4 million in 2007.

That year airport operators spent $43.3 million on parking and roadways but took in just $35.8 million in parking, cab, limo and bus fees. A fee increase would boost revenue to $46.4 million in 2008.

"We are not looking to gouge the resident here; we are looking to break even for the cost of operation," said Rosemary Vassiliadis, deputy director of the Clark County Aviation Department.

Parking fees will increase an average of 27 percent, but people who park in the valet section will face the greatest increase. The daily fee for valet parking will increase from $16 to $21.

Long-term parking, which applies to most of the vehicles using the parking garage, will increase from $12 to $14 per day. Economy parking, which includes a surface lot farther from the terminals, will increase from $6 to $8 per day.

Parking in overflow areas, lots that are available only after the economy lot is full, will remain free. But passengers can't choose to park in overflow lots. They only get access during peak times when there are not enough spaces in paid parking.

The parking rate increase at the airport is the first since 2005. Since then, the cost of repairing and maintaining roads and parking areas at McCarran has increased almost 39 percent, according to a memo from Alan Stewart, assistant director of finance and business for the airport.

For limousines and buses, access fees haven't gone up in five years. For cabs, the fees haven't increased since 1996.

For taxicabs and other vehicles carrying one to eight passengers, the fee will increase from $1.20 to $1.80 per trip. Nine- to 15-passenger vehicles fees will increase from $2 to $3. For 16- to 30-passenger vehicles the price goes from $3 to $4.50. Vehicles carrying 31 or more people will face a fee increase from $10 to $15.

"Those fees are always passed on to the end user," said Charlie Horky, owner of CLS Nevada, a shuttle, limousine and car service company. "I've never had a customer say, 'I don't want to pay that.' "

Horky said the price of fuel is a much larger concern than airport fees. The company has already added a $6 surcharge to account for high fuel costs.

The airport use fees, Horky says, are reasonable.

"The airport is a business, and they run it very well," he said.

The fees included in the increase are just a small part of how the airport gets funded. Overall, the airport operates in the black even though, at least for now, segments such as parking and roadways are in deficit.

In fiscal year 2007, McCarran took in $332 million in revenue. The largest revenue category was $112.8 million for building and land rentals, which includes ticket counters and other space in the terminals.

The second largest category was concessions at $48.2 million. Revenue from slot machines was third at $40.8 million followed by landing and aircraft fees at $37.6 million.

Ground transportation was just $10.1 million. Parking was $28 million.

Even after the increase, McCarran will remain at or near the bottom of the pack in most fee categories among similar airports.

San Francisco International Airport was the most expensive to park at among comparable airports. It costs $45 per day for valet parking and $13 a day for economy parking.

San Francisco also has the highest cab fees, at $4 per trip.

Spreading more of the burden for running McCarran has long been a goal of the airlines. But the drive to do that has grown more intense in recent months. The cost of jet fuel has doubled in the past year and many airlines are cutting routes, laying off workers and losing money.

"We need to turn over every stone and look for every nickel that we can," said Linda Macey, manager of properties for Southwest Airlines, the carrier with the largest presence in Las Vegas.

Airlines have also asked McCarran officials to hold off on a plan for a new terminal. The airport administration and Clark County Commission, however, rejected that request last month when they approved a construction contract worth $1.2 billion for a third terminal building to open in 2012.

Still, Macey said Clark County aviation director Randall Walker has agreed to reconsider other projects in the capital improvement plan.

"Every penny makes a difference," Macey said.