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McCarran passenger traffic rises to 46.2 million in 2006

7 February 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A record 46.2 million people went through McCarran International Airport in 2006, airport officials said Tuesday.

The total is a 4.4 percent increase from 2005 and is expected to increase again in 2007 with new hotel rooms in Las Vegas and more locals flying in and out of the city. The percentage increase was even greater in the fourth quarter of the year, rising 7.9 percent to 3.5 million from 2005.

"We're proud of what we accomplished in 2006, and we'll continue to do the work necessary to safely bring more travelers through McCarran in 2007 and beyond," Randall Walker, director of aviation for Clark County, said in a statement.

Of the top five carriers at McCarran, Southwest showed the greatest increase at 11.3 percent for a total of 13.9 million.

American, the fifth-largest presence at McCarran, decreased 11.6 percent to 2.3 million.

Delta also lost passengers at McCarran, carrying 2.4 million people, a decrease of 9.6 percent.

Southwest, the airline with the largest presence at McCarran, contributed to the growth with new flights to Denver and revived service to New Orleans.

By April, Southwest will have 231 flights daily to and from McCarran, up from 216 at this time last year.

In January, it added nonstop service to Denver that now consists of seven flights daily. And in June it resumed service to New Orleans, a route that was discontinued Aug. 28, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

Low-cost and regional airlines like Southwest led the way at McCarran in 2006.

It was part of a broader industry trend that has legacy carriers ceding shorter routes to low-cost carriers to focus on more lucrative and less competitive routes.

"International is really the direction we have to go," Delta Air Lines CEO Gerald Grinstein told The New York Times earlier this month. "The fares are more stable and the competition isn't as low-cost."

More people came through McCarran airport even though hotel capacity was flat for the year with both the downtown Lady Luck and Stardust on the Strip shutting down.

"If you don't have any rooms to sell, it is harder to get people in here," said Vince Alberta, spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Room inventory should increase in 2007 with the opening of the 3,025-room Palazzo on the Strip by the end of the year.

In addition to heavier passenger traffic, there was also continued work on the $4 billion capital improvement plan at the 58-year-old airport although much was cosmetic. There was renovation in the older A and B concourses that was aimed at making them fit in better with newer parts of the airport.

"They modernized it to make it look like the rest of the airport," airport spokesman Chris Jones said.

Planning for the future also continued. In 2007 a $165 million consolidated rental car facility will open near Warm Springs Road and the Las Vegas Beltway.

And in 2011 a third terminal will open.

The $1.8 billion terminal will include 14 more gates and a parking garage for 6,000 vehicles.