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Chris Jones

Las Vegas Flier Count up in January

27 February 2006

Another year, another busy start for McCarran International Airport.

The Las Vegas gateway hosted nearly 3.5 million people last month, up 5.9 percent from January 2005, the Clark County Aviation Department said Friday.

January's count was lower than every month of 2005 excluding January and February. That mirrors patterns set in recent years, when slower winter traffic gave way to a busy spring and summer season that typically gets under way in March, airport data show.

McCarran's month-over-month traffic has not shown a decrease since August 2003, when traffic slipped 0.2 percent.

Southwest Airlines led the pack with nearly 1.2 million arriving and departing passengers, up 15.8 percent.

America West -- which McCarran continues to track separately from US Airways despite last year's merger -- ranked second with 553,793 monthly passengers, a 3.1 percent rise.

McCarran cannot combine America West and US Airways passenger data until the newly merged airline updates its passenger tracking system. Airport spokeswoman Elaine Sanchez said Friday she is uncertain when that change will occur.

Others in McCarran's top five continued their recent slide.

United Airlines' 249,732 passengers was a 3.4 percent decrease. American's 193,182 count also fell 3.4 percent, while Delta Air Lines' 188,085 tally was off by more than 21 percent.

Industry experts have repeatedly said so-called "legacy carriers" such as United, American and Delta will continue to lose ground to discount carriers in domestic leisure markets.

January's figures from low-cost airlines support such claims, as evidenced by Allegiant Air (up 87.6 percent), JetBlue Airways (up 22.4 percent) and Frontier (up 25.7 percent).

Approximately 300,000 daily visitors celebrated New Year's Eve in Las Vegas, many of whom flew home from McCarran following the extended holiday. Others arrived that week for the International Consumer Electronics Show, which hosted more than 150,000 attendees Jan. 5-8.

World of Concrete, an 80,000-attendee trade show, was held midmonth, while a Jan. 21 boxing match at the Thomas & Mack Center drew fans from the Philippines and Mexico to support Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales, respectively.

The month concluded with the 10,000-attendee National Association of Television Program Executives convention, Chinese New Year and the launch of World Market Center's weeklong winter furniture mart. The latter lured 50,000 attendees to downtown Las Vegas Jan. 30-Feb. 3.