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McCarran sees largest traffic decline since 2002

22 August 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Traffic at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas fell 8.6 percent in July to about 3.9 million arrivals and departures.

The decline reflects an ongoing trend in Las Vegas tourism due to a rocky national economy and high oil prices that make it more difficult to travel.

The latest dip at McCarran, which is the largest since February 2002, marks the ninth consecutive month of declining airline visits, including a slight increase in February due to an extra day thanks to leap year.

Among the top five airlines serving Las Vegas, only American posted an increase. It took nearly 185,000 people to and from Southern Nevada during the month, a 3.6 percent increase.

Southwest, the airline that hauls the most Las Vegas passengers, saw arrivals and departures decline 5.6 percent to about 1.4 million for the month.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, one of the only domestic airlines to post profits in recent months, saw its McCarran arrivals and departures fall 5.9 percent to about 163,000.

A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said the dismal numbers are no surprise to anyone who even casually follows the airline and tourism industries.

"Our fares are still low into the market, but there have been some increases and as you see with other things, as prices go up, folks are having to cut their discretionary spending," Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said.

A 17.3 percent decline for Phoenix-based US Airways was the biggest drop among the top five McCarran airlines. US Airways has been slashing capacity for months in an effort to stabilize sagging finances.

Delta traffic was down 12.7 percent in July and United was down 8.9 percent.

July was also a slow month at Terminal 2, where most direct international flights arrive and depart.

Terminal 2 arrivals and departures were down 0.7 percent for the month to about 181,000. For the year, arrivals and departures at the international terminal are up 7.4 percent to about 1.4 million.

For the year, traffic at McCarran is down 4 percent. US Airways is the airline with the largest year-to-date decline at 21.2 percent. United is down 7.4 percent; Delta is down 1.3 percent. Southwest is up 1.6 percent year-to-date with 9.5 million arrivals and departures.