Las Vegas Airport Travel Climbs Higher, International Flights Down

Posted on: August 20, 2021, 01:32h. 

Last updated on: August 24, 2021, 12:12h.

The number of passengers using McCarran International Airport near the Las Vegas Strip topped 4 million in July. This figure is near pre-pandemic levels, but the number of international travelers remains well below 2019 totals.

McCarran International Airport
With Las Vegas Strip resorts in the background, a passenger aircraft maneuvers into position at McCarran International Airport. Travel in and out of the airport was up in July. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

In July this year, 4.15 million arriving and departing passengers made their way through the airport, according to the Clark County Department of Aviation. That total is only 7.9 percent below the 4.5 million travelers who used McCarran Airport in 2019.

The airport is at the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, just east of the Tropicana, MGM Grand, and other resorts. Like much of the Strip, the airport is outside Las Vegas city limits and is governed by Clark County officials.

So far this year, 20 million passengers have used the airport, a 32.5 percent decline from the 29.7 million who made their way through in 2019.

The airport uses 2019 travel totals to compare how well the area is doing since last year’s pandemic-related economic slump. When COVID-19 cases began to spike in March 2020, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) ordered casinos to close statewide. He allowed them to reopen in early June.

At one point last year, Las Vegas led the nation with an unemployment level that exceeded 34 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. The number of visitors arriving in Las Vegas, including air travelers, plummeted. This led to the unprecedented midweek closure of some hotel towers because of low consumer demand.

Travel into Las Vegas remained low until earlier this year when the national rollout of vaccines and stimulus checks led to higher tourism totals. 

International Travel Slump

While overall airport travel is up, international flights are still infrequent. In July, 64,425 international travelers made their way through the airport. Most of these were on airlines based in Mexico. That figure is 80.8 percent below the 335,135 international travelers who made use of the Las Vegas airport in July 2019.

International travelers are considered vital to the Las Vegas economy. Tourism experts note that these travelers spend more money and stay longer on average than domestic tourists. They also are important in filling up hotel rooms during the slower middle of the week.

During the first seven months of this year, 246,054 international travelers passed through McCarran International Airport. That is 88.8 percent below the 2.19 million who went through from January-July in 2019.

Airport Name Change

Earlier this year, the Clark County Commission voted to change the airport’s name to honor former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D). The airport now is named for former US Sen. Patrick McCarran (D).

Commissioner Tick Segerblom, a former state legislator who proposed the name change, has said it could occur by early September.

The name cannot be changed until the commission raises private donations to pay for signage and other needs. The cost has been estimated at $7.2 million. The commission has vowed not to use taxpayer money for the name change. The process can begin when at least $4.2 million in private donations come in.

So far, the commission has been promised two separate $1 million donations. One is from Las Vegas businessman Stephen Cloobeck. The other is from Las Vegas gambler Billy Walters, convicted of insider trading in 2017.

Cloobeck recently was in the news regarding a legal dispute with a former girlfriend accused of taking nude selfies at his property to sell online.