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Chris Jones

D-gates Addition Poised to Open

11 April 2005

Less than four months after the end of its busiest year on record, McCarran International Airport will soon welcome some much-needed extra space.

Airport officials will on Friday open the northeast wing of the D-gates concourse. The 11-gate addition was first announced six years ago, but construction was halted for nearly 18 months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks reduced air travel worldwide.Advertisement

Following last year's record 41.4 million passengers, Clark County Aviation Director Randall Walker said next week's $125 million addition will significantly bolster McCarran's gate capacity.

"We can handle about 3.1 million more passengers per year," Walker said.

Walker estimates each new gate increases the airport's passenger capacity by approximately 450,000 per year. Next week's expansion will be partially offset by the subsequent temporary closure of four existing gates, however, which means McCarran's operational total will effectively increase to 92 gates from 85 a year ago.

JetBlue Airways, a Kew Gardens, N.Y.-based discount carrier, has operated from McCarran's older A-gates concourse since its Las Vegas service launched in October 2002. It will be the first airline to use the new wing, and spokesman Todd Burke said the company is pleased to make the move.

"Relocating to these new gates, the newer part of McCarran Airport, we feel will add to the JetBlue experience for our customers," said Burke, whose airline's local operations will shift to the D gates on Friday.

The extra space should also support JetBlue's pending growth. The airline currently operates six daily departures to Long Beach, Calif., and New York's Kennedy International. On May 3, it will add one daily round-trip serving Boston's Logan International.

Continental and Alaska airlines will also transfer from A to D, Walker said, though he did not specify when those moves would occur.

Shifting that trio to the D gates will allow McCarran's two busiest carriers -- Southwest Airlines and America West -- to expand within the A and B concourses.

McCarran also plans to build a 10-gate northwest wing addition to the D-gates concourse, as well as a 14-gate Terminal 3 project along Russell Road.

Coupled with the return of the four gates now set to shut down for ramp improvements, the airport would reach a maximum capacity of approximately 120 gates upon the completion of those projects.

Passenger demand will determine when those additions come online, Walker said.

The first phase of the D concourse opened in July 1998 with 26 gates. It cost a reported $345 million.

Airlines now based there include American, AirTran, Delta and United.