More than 51.5 million passengers touched down into McCarran International Airport last year, county officials said on Wednesday. It’s a new record for the ever-bustling Las Vegas airport. According to a press release from the Clark County Department of Aviation, it’s also the third straight year the airport has broken their record for passenger traffic, and the ninth straight year of year-over-year traffic increase.
Last October saw the airport’s busiest month ever, with 4.61 million passengers passing through its doors.
“The record passenger volume we’re seeing here at McCarran speaks to the widespread appeal of Las Vegas as a destination,” said Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of aviation for Clark County, Nevada — where Las Vegas is located — in a statement. “They’re coming for leisure, for sporting events and concerts, and they’re coming for business meetings and conventions.”
Passenger numbers are not only rising for the city of Las Vegas, but they have been steadily rising on the national level for the past several years. The national record hit the 1 billion annual passengers mark for the first-time ever in 2018, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.
Domestic and International Travel Trends
The growth in Las Vegas is largely driven by strong domestic demand. Domestic travel was up 3.9%, from 44.86 million people in 2018 to 46.91 million in 2019, according to new figures.
Bargain carriers including Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Sun Country Airlines are among those growing the fastest at McCarran. Seats were forecasted to increase nearly 39% on Frontier, nearly 24% on Spirit, and a whooping 82.5% on Sun Country year-over-year in 2019, according to Cirium schedules.
Some recent additions include new Frontier service to seven more cities, including San Diego, Detroit, Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia. Sun Country also expanded its Las Vegas network to 13 nonstop routes, including Anchorage, San Antonio, Providence, Minneapolis, and Portland.
Nonstop International Routes
International travel ticked up in 2019, from 3.76 million fliers in 2018 to 3.81 million last year. Several carriers began offering international routes, including nonstop flights to Amsterdam, Paris, Israel, and Germany.
Landing a nonstop to Japan is airport officials’ main focus, with McCarran’s chief marketing officer Chris Jones describing a flight to Japan as “hugely important.” Currently, nonstop flights to Japan are only available from Dallas’ DFW airport and Los Angeles’ LAX airport.
International guests are big business, too, as international visitors typically stay a full day in Las Vegas longer than domestic visitors do.
International visitors make up approximately 17 percent of Las Vegas’ total visitors, but represent 20 percent of visitor spending, with 57 percent staying for four or more days.
Soaring into a Bright Future
The steady passenger growth has inspired Las Vegas officials plan to begin studying a new airport for the city. Environmental studies are set to begin next year on a facility that could open by 2040.
“As an industry sustained by passengers we are so grateful to the locals and visitors who chose to travel in 2019.
I’m excited to see what’s in store for 2020 and beyond as even more projects come online that we know will draw additional travelers to Southern Nevada,” said Vassiliadis.