Friday, June 26, 2009 | 3 a.m.
Passenger counts at McCarran International Airport were off in May for the 15th straight month with declines in arriving and departing travelers running parallel to percentage changes in capacity by the 33 airlines serving Las Vegas.
The Clark County Aviation Department reported 3.5 million passengers used McCarran last month, an 11.5 percent decrease from May 2008. For the first five months of 2009, traffic is off 11.9 percent to 16.8 million.
Although there are some exceptions, the percentage changes in traffic by airline at McCarran are running close to capacity changes the airlines have made over the past year as the aviation industry battles to survive the recession.
Southwest Airlines, the busiest carrier at McCarran, had a 4.6 percent decline in traffic to 1.4 million passengers and for the year, traffic is off 5.3 percent. Southwest’s capacity over last year is down 5.2 percent.
The biggest percentage decline has been for No. 2 McCarran operator US Airways, whose May numbers are down 30.6 percent to 450,738, and whose five-month total is down 31.9 percent. The airline’s capacity, meanwhile, is off 37 percent from a year ago.
Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines, one of the few carriers to show a monthly and year-to-date gain at McCarran, had 199,198 passengers in May, a 3.5 percent increase, and the five-month total is up 2.4 percent. American’s capacity is up 10.7 percent although the number of daily flights has declined 3.4 percent, an indication that the airline is using larger aircraft in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air showed a 9.2 percent increase in passengers in May to 159,230 and the five-month increase was 10.8 percent. Meanwhile, Allegiant’s capacity has risen 14.5 percent.
One of the exceptions to the trend was United Airlines, the No. 3 carrier at the airport. United’s passenger count was off 16.6 percent to 242,330 in May and in five months, down 11.6 percent. But United has increased capacity at McCarran 4.6 percent from last year.
Overseas and international flights to McCarran improved over last year despite the discontinuation of service by British Midland in late April. The flights, which include service between Honolulu and Las Vegas by Hawaiian Airlines and flights to and from Canada and Mexico were up 1.4 percent in May to 200,199 passengers, thanks to strong demand for Aeromexico, Canada’s WestJet and new service by Thomas Cook Airlines from Manchester, England, and from Canada on Sunwing Airlines.
Hawaiian Airlines had a 19.4 percent increase in passengers to 38,362, thanks primarily to a new Honolulu flight, and Virgin Atlantic had a 5.2 increase to 26,344 on its daily service from London’s Gatwick International Airport.