Air Travel into Las Vegas Climbs Higher, With More Than 2.9M Passengers in April

Posted on: May 25, 2021, 04:14h. 

Last updated on: July 19, 2021, 02:33h.

The number of passengers using McCarran International Airport improved in April, an important upward trend for Las Vegas casinos. But arrivals and departures are down by millions compared to pre-pandemic levels.

McCarran International Airport
A “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign greets visitors at McCarran International Airport. The airport is near the southeast end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Image: KTNV-TV)

In April, 2.9 million passengers made their way through the airport, according to figures that the Clark County Department of Aviation released Tuesday. That total is 331,284 more than the number of arriving and departing passengers in March. 

However, the April 2021 figure is 32 percent below the total in April 2019, when 4.3 million passengers used the airport. 

Airport officials are using the 2019 number to show how the Las Vegas area is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Aviation. In April 2020, only one month after the onset of the pandemic, fewer than 153,000 passengers used the airport.

The year-to-date numbers show 8.6 million arriving and departing passengers have used the airport in 2021. By comparison, 16.2 million used McCarran by the end of April 2019.

The airport is at the southeast end of the Las Vegas Strip, near the Tropicana, MGM Grand, and other major hotel casinos. The Clark County Commission has voted to change the airport’s name to Harry Reid International Airport. The name change is not expected to take place for at least several more months, airport officials said.

High-Speed Train Planned

Because of Las Vegas’ remote desert location, air travel is seen as vital in transporting large numbers of domestic and international visitors to Southern Nevada. 

The nearest major metropolitan area, Los Angeles, is at least four hours away by car. Interstate 15 connecting Las Vegas to the Los Angeles area sometimes becomes congested, as tourists return to Southern California on weekends.

To help resolve that, an effort is underway to construct a high-speed train from Apple Valley, Calif., to Las Vegas. Apple Valley is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. 

The above-ground train is projected to travel at speeds of 200 mph in a three-hour trip from California’s Inland Empire to a location near the Las Vegas Strip. Once the project is underway, construction is expected to take three years. The company planning to build the train has said construction could begin by the end of June.    

Conventions Crucial to Las Vegas

Since 1999, resorts on the Las Vegas Strip Strip have made more money from conventions and from hotel amenities such as entertainment and food than from gambling, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This underscores the importance of air travel in bringing conventioneers to the city. After coronavirus lockdowns began in March, there were no conventions in 2020. Conventions are seen as important in filling up hotel rooms, especially in the slower middle of the week. 

To attract conventions and trade shows, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has touted its nearly $1 billion West Hall addition at the Convention Center and a Tesla people-mover system from Elon Musk’s The Boring Co.