McCarran passenger counts flat in December but up in 2012

Glenn Pinkerton / Las Vegas News Bureau

In this photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, Officials welcomed British Airwaysi first flight from Londonis Gatwick Airport with the traditional water cannon salute at McCarran International Airport on October 29, 2012.

Passenger counts at McCarran International Airport were flat in December, but the city’s airport – the seventh busiest in the country – closed 2012 with a 0.4 percent increase over the previous year with 41.7 million passengers.

A downturn in domestic passengers and scenic helicopter tours was offset by strong international growth, giving McCarran its second straight year of year-over-year growth. In 2011, passenger numbers ended 4.3 percent ahead of the previous year with 41.5 million passengers.

A record 47.7 million people flew into McCarran in 2007.

Airline analysts say the flat counts are the result of restrained capacity by major airlines, whose goal is to fill a limited number of flights as full as possible.

Las Vegas’ market leader, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, saw passenger counts grow 1.7 percent to 16.2 million passengers, but the next three airlines in the rankings had fewer passengers in 2012 than in 2011.

No. 2 Delta, No. 3 United and No. 4 American were off by 8.8 percent, 8 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

No. 5 Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air had a 9.2 percent increase with 2.3 million passengers for the year.

Other airlines showing year-over-year gains in 2012 were the fastest-growing carrier of the year, Spirit Airlines (up 71.1 percent to 1.9 million), as well as Virgin America (up 26.1 percent to 646,161), JetBlue (up 7.8 percent to 1.1 million), Sun Country (up 7.5 percent to 144,531) and Hawaiian Airlines (up 3.9 percent to 539,284).

Airlines that showed declines included US Airways (down 19.4 percent to 2 million); AirTran, which has been acquired by and is being absorbed by Southwest (off 31.3 percent to 385,635 passengers; and Frontier Airlines (down 8.4 percent to 638,524.)

Most of McCarran’s growth in 2012 occurred on international routes, which saw a 9.9 percent increase in passengers.

Leading the way was Canadian discounter Westjet, which expanded by 2.1 percent to 975,353 passengers. The fastest growing international carrier was Mexican discount carrier Volaris, which partners with Southwest Airlines and saw a 98.8 percent increase to 235,172 passengers.

Other gainers included Canada-based Sunwing (up 25.7 percent to 53,387), Condor Flugdienst (up 25.1 percent to 74,010), Vivaaerobus (up 21.5 percent to 42,630), Korean (up 16.9 percent to 64,111), British Airways (up 10.4 percent to 231,569), Thomas Cook (up 9.3 percent to 21,851) and Air Canada (up 2.9 percent to 479,318).

Several airlines made their debut in Las Vegas in 2012, including Airberlin, Arkefly, Copa Airlines, Interjet and Magnicharters. They collectively brought 89,489 passengers to the city in their first year.

Only Virgin Atlantic (down 0.3 percent to 331,415 because of new competition from British Airways), Aeromexico (down 0.8 percent to 184,457 thanks to discount carriers competing on routes) and XL Airways France (which downsized its seasonal service) had fewer passengers this year than last.

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