Airport Passenger Total Climbs Higher in Tourism-Dependent Las Vegas 

Posted on: June 25, 2021, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: June 25, 2021, 04:23h.

The monthly passenger total at McCarran International Airport near the Las Vegas Strip climbed to its highest number of the year in May. 

Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
An aircraft approaching McCarran International Airport flies near the Las Vegas sign on the Strip. The airport’s passenger total reached a yearly high in May. (Image: AutoSlash)

The 3.5 million arriving and departing passengers in May exceeds April’s 2.9 million total, according to the Clark County Department of Aviation. However, the May figure is 23.3 percent below the 4.5 million passengers who used the airport in May 2019, 10 months before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Airport officials use 2019 numbers to show how the Las Vegas Valley is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. In April 2020, only one month after COVID-19 cases surfaced in the state, fewer than 153,000 passengers used the airport. 

The year-to-date figures also show that airport travel is off from pre-pandemic levels. From January through May this year, 12.1 million passenger used the airport. That is 41.7 percent below the 20.7 million people who made their way through the airport during the first five months of 2019.

The airport is at the southeast end of the Las Vegas Strip, near the Tropicana, MGM Grand, and other major hotel casinos. The airport is in Clark County, outside Las Vegas city limits.

High-Speed Train Proposed 

Because of the Las Vegas Valley’s remote desert location, airport travel is seen as vital in bringing large numbers of international and domestic tourists to the city.

The nearest major metropolitan area, Los Angeles, is at least four hours away by car. As visitors return to Southern California, traffic congestion on Interstate 15 often can create major delays.

To address this, a private company has proposed building a high-speed train connecting Las Vegas to the Victorville-Apple Valley area in Southern California. Apple Valley is in San Bernardino County, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

Construction on the proposed 170-mile rail line, projected to begin this summer, has been pushed back to at least 2022. Construction is expected to last three years.

The Brightline West passenger train would travel at 200 mph, making it the fastest train in the US. A one-way trip will last about three hours.

Millions Raised for Airport Name

Earlier this year, the Clark County Commission voted to change the name of the airport to honor former US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D). Reid is from Searchlight, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas. 

The cost to change signs at the airport and to make administrative adjustments is expected to be about $7.2 million, a county spokesman told 

Commissioner Tick Segerblom, a former state legislator who proposed the name change, said the money for this process will come from private donors, not taxpayers. He recently posted a tweet saying $1 million in donation money has come in, with another $3 million already pledged.