Outbound flight astounds
Nonstop flight to Puerto Penasco is bringing attention to small resort town
One of Las Vegas’ greatest selling points to attract new businesses is its airline network. As of August, there were 132 nonstop destinations from McCarran International Airport.
It’s easy to understand why: While casinos have proliferated nationwide, there’s still no place like Las Vegas for the whole package of entertainment, quality lodging at various price points, food options ranging from the buffet to the gourmet restaurant, and shopping.
We’re used to seeing most of the traffic inbound to McCarran, but the fact that there are flights to take people home make it convenient for locals to hitch a ride to their favorite destinations.
Rare is the route that generates more outbound traffic than inbound, but every once in awhile, we see one and take note. That’s the case for a new international route.
Aerolitoral, flying as Aeromexico Connect, began nonstop flights in June to Puerto Penasco — known in my Arizona college days as the Gulf of California beach town of Rocky Point. It’s the 19th international route from Las Vegas and the fifth to a destination in Mexico.
Puerto Penasco is a growing resort town, home to the Mayan Palace resort and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Peninsula de Cortes Golf Club, the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve and its more than 400 craters surrounded by the Grand Altar Desert. Mexican tourism leaders also are building a deep-water port to accommodate cruise ships and a convention center.
Aeromexico Connect uses a 50-passenger Embraer 145 jet on the route that operates Thursdays and Sundays. Passengers who book in advance can get a round-trip ticket for under $300.
Local travel professionals have told me there are more seats being purchased from Las Vegas than from Mexico. The reason: After the plane arrives at Puerto Penasco, it then makes a quick trip to Hermosillo, a city of more than 700,000 people that is the capital of Sonora. The return trip goes from Hermosillo to Puerto Penasco, then to Las Vegas.
Aeromexico expects Puerto Penasco to be a growth market, especially as more people learn about it. For now, representatives of the resort community are subsidizing Aeromexico on the route. Representatives of the resort town came to Las Vegas in June, meeting with local travel agents and tour operators as well as representatives of the Latin Chamber of Commerce to generate interest.
Aeromexico is starting small with just 100 seats a week on the route, but Fernando Antillon of Puerto Penasco’s airport said the airline could bump up flight frequencies or use larger aircraft if growth occurs. About 20 percent of the passengers from Las Vegas stay in Puerto Penasco, with the rest traveling on to Hermosillo.
The airport opened in 2009, and the Las Vegas flight is its first international destination. Airport officials there are hoping to see scheduled or charter flights to and from Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix in the future.