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McCarran Tops 4 Million In July, Plans International Expansion

Ken Lund/Flickr
Ken Lund/Flickr

McCarran International Airport flying high after a huge number of people passed through the busy airport in July.

Has Southern Nevada finally put the recession behind?

If you look at passenger numbers at McCarran International Airport, the answer is a definite - yes.

The Clark County Department of Aviation says passenger traffic jumped 8.8 percent last month over July 2014.

Or, 4.1 million passengers passed through the airport in July. It was also the first month since March 2008 that McCarran saw traffic top 4 million passengers in one month.

So, why such a dramatic increase in traffic at McCarran. And, will the airport be able to handle the continued grow, especially with seven additional international gates planned?

Rick Velotta is the transportation reporter with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

He told KNPR'S State of Nevada that 4 million is the benchmark and anything above that is astonishing. 

"We haven't had 4 million through here in quite sometime so that kind of opened a lot of eyes," Velotta said.

He also believes the numbers will continue to increase as more domestic airlines add more flights and bigger planes to accommodate convention and business travelers, who are more likely to pay more for a ticket.

"They're on track to go beyond 45 million right now which is closing in on the highest we've ever seen it, which was back in 2007," Velotta said.

While that is good news for the city's tourism-driven economy, it poses a new set of problems because the capacity of McCarran is 55 million, according to Velotta.

The department of aviation could dust off its plans for an airport in the Ivanpah Valley near Primm, but Velotta said there are projects to improve capacity at McCarran before that happens.

A project that is already slated to go forward at the airport will expand the number of international gates.

Velotta said that foreign visitors account for 19 percent of visitor volume at McCarran, but the aviation authority wants to increase that to 30 percent.

Airport officials plane to take seven gates in the D Gates and turn them into international gates by building a tunnel directly to the Customs and Immigration Service in Terminal 3. 

Rick Velotta, transportation reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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