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Benjamin Spillman

McCarran flier count dips 7 percent in June

28 July 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Passenger counts at McCarran International Airport fell 7 percent in June, another indication that the nation's shaky economy is undermining the leisure travel industry.

About 3.9 million people arrived and departed McCarran for the month, figures released Friday by the Clark County Department of Aviation show. So far this year, McCarran traffic is down 3.2 percent to 22.9 million through June.

McCarran's top five carriers all posted declines in June, including Southwest, the No. 1 airline in Las Vegas and the only major domestic carrier making more money than it spends.

"As fares have moved higher and the economy has continued to weaken, we have seen some fall-off in demand," Southwest Airlines Chief Financial Officer Laura Wright said Thursday during a conference call. "We've aggressively adjusted our public schedules over the last year to eliminate nonproductive flying."

Wright said that nationally, Southwest's load factor, the percentage of full seats on a given flight, fell almost 4 percentage points to about 78 percent in June.

Still, with just a 2.7 percent decline to 1.4 million McCarran passengers, Southwest fared much better than other major airlines serving Las Vegas.

US Airways continued a free fall it's been locked into for months, this time posting an 18.6 percent decrease in Las Vegas passengers for June. So far this year, US Airways, the second-biggest carrier in the market with nearly 680,000 passengers in June, has brought 21.9 percent fewer people to Sin City.

The airline is being hammered by jet fuel costs that have nearly doubled in the past year. By fall, the airline expects it will have about half as many flights to Las Vegas as it did in the fall of 2007.

Delta Air Lines, the fourth-biggest Las Vegas carrier, brought almost 187,000 people to Las Vegas in June, a 13.6 percent decrease from the previous year.

The airline numbers are just the most recent disappointing economic figures to hit Las Vegas in recent days.

Gambling win, the amount of money people lose to casinos, fell about 15 percent in May. The number of Las Vegas visitors for the month was flat and indications are people who visit aren't spending as much.

And earlier this year, airlines reported they would cut service to Las Vegas by about 15 percent or more by the end of the year.

The news wasn't dire for every airline, though.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant, now the sixth-largest carrier serving McCarran, increased arrivals and departures 4.4 percent to about 164,000.

JetBlue was also up for the month, posting a 12.7 percent increase. Midwest Airlines increased 11 percent.

Traffic at Terminal 2, which is mostly international, was up 4.6 percent.