Unruly Las Vegas Passengers Prompt Airport Crackdown

Posted on: August 24, 2021, 02:51h. 

Last updated on: August 24, 2021, 03:57h.

McCarran International Airport near the Las Vegas Strip is beefing up efforts to stop passengers from taking alcohol onto airplanes. This comes as Las Vegas-related flights lead the nation in new unruly incidents. 

Airport passenger face coverings
Passengers and airport officials wear COVID-19 masks during the check-in process. Officials at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas have stressed that passengers cannot bring alcohol on board. (Image: KTNV-TV)

Airport spokesman Chris Jones said McCarran officials are working with airlines to reinforce the policy about not taking alcohol on board.

“Airline gate agents make pre-boarding announcements to remind travelers they cannot carry alcohol onto aircraft, and they can deny boarding if a customer won’t comply,” Jones told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This has long been the practice at LAS, and recently we’ve worked with local airline management to reiterate this expectation, with good success.”

The airport is just east of major hotel casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. Like much of the Strip, the airport is outside Las Vegas city limits and is governed by Clark County officials. The combined city-county Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, known locally as Metro, assists at the airport. 

Las Vegas Flights Tops in Bad Behavior

So far in 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration has fined passengers more than $1 million for improper conduct, according to the federal agency’s website.

Recent fines announced last week involved 34 incidents nationwide, mostly regarding alcohol or the refusal to wear COVID-19 face coverings. Las Vegas was connected to nine of the incidents, more than any other city, the newspaper reported. These Las Vegas-connected incidents resulted in $113,000 in fines or about 11 percent of the total.

One case involved two men on a Frontier Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Denver on Dec. 2. The passengers drank alcohol not served by the airline, even after flight attendants warned that it was illegal to do so. Each man was handed a $15,000 fine, the FAA website states.

On Jan. 29, three women on a Frontier flight from San Diego to Las Vegas did not comply with the mask mandate and also drank alcohol the airline did not serve, the website states. They were fined $13,000 each.

A passenger on a Feb. 2 Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland, Calif., to Las Vegas, was fined $13,000 for interfering with the flight crew regarding instructions “to turn off her phone during takeoff, wear her face mask, and stop drinking alcohol that the airline did not serve to her,” according to the FAA website.

After receiving a letter from the FAA regarding fines, passengers have 30 days to reply. The FAA does not publicly name the passengers who were fined.

Uptick in Airport Travel 

As this occurred, McCarran Airport experienced a monthly increase in the number of arriving and departing passengers.

In July this year, 4.15 million travelers made their way through the airport, according to the Clark County Department of Aviation. That figure is only 7.9 percent below the 4.5 million pre-pandemic travelers who used McCarran Airport in July 2019.

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

International visitors are considered important to the Las Vegas economy, in part because they help fill up hotel towers during the slower middle of the week. Low consumer demand forced some resorts to close their hotel towers last year.