Millions Use Las Vegas Airport in June, But International Travel Still Lagging

Posted on: July 29, 2021, 02:35h. 

Last updated on: July 29, 2021, 08:31h.

More than 3.8 million passengers used McCarran International Airport in June, an increase from the previous month but below pre-pandemic levels. International travel remains in steep decline.

McCarran International Airport
Passenger jets roll into position at McCarran International Airport near the Las Vegas Strip. The airport in June saw its highest passenger total of the year. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The number of arriving and departing passengers in June was higher than May’s total of 3.5 million travelers, according to figures this week from the Clark County Department of Aviation.

However, this year’s June total is 14.3 percent below the 4.4 million who made their way through the airport in June 2019, nine months before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials use pre-pandemic figures to compare how the area is faring as it attempts to emerge from economic difficulties that began in March 2020 with rising COVID-19 infections. From January to June this year, 15.9 million passengers used the airport. That number is 36.9 percent below the 25.2 million travelers at McCarran during the same six-month period in 2019.

The airport is at the southeast end of the Las Vegas Strip, near the Tropicana, MGM Grand, and other major hotel casinos. Like most of the resorts on the Strip, the airport is in Clark County, outside Las Vegas city limits. The Clark County Commission earlier this year voted to rename the airport in honor of former US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D). The name change is expected to occur after the commission raises $7.2 million from private donors for new signage and administrative requirements. The commission has raised at least $1 million so far to pay for the name change.   

International Travel Down

The falloff in international travel has been an area of concern for Southern Nevada tourism officials. International travelers are seen as important to Las Vegas’ economic recovery. These visitors typically stay longer and spend more money.

International travelers and convention-goers also are considered vital in filling up a large number of hotel rooms in the area, especially during the slower middle of the week. Last year, several resorts closed their hotel towers during the midweek days because of low consumer demand.  

In June, only 53,402 international travelers used the airport. Most of these arrived on VivaAerobus, Volaris, and Aeromexico, according to the Department of Aviation. These three airlines are based in Mexico.

Two years earlier, during the pre-pandemic period, more than 327,127 international travelers used the airport, or 83.79 percent more than last month. 

From January to June this year, 181,629 International passengers used the airport. That figure is 90.2 percent below January-June 2019 when 1.86 million international visitors made their way through McCarran.

High-Speed Train Possibility

In looking for ways to increase the visitor volume, Las Vegas officials are pushing for the construction of a 200-mph high-speed train connecting Las Vegas to Apple Valley, Calif. Apple Valley is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. Ultimately, additional extensions will allegedly connect Apple Valley to downtown Los Angeles.

Construction is slated to begin next year and is expected to last for three years.

About 20 percent of Las Vegas’ visitor total comes from Southern California. Traffic congestion going back to the Los Angeles area on Interstate 15 has contributed to frustrations for many of these visitors. Las Vegas officials hope a high-speed train will help alleviate traffic congestion.