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McCarran International Airport (IATA: LAS, ICAO: KLAS, FAA LID: LAS) is an international airport in Paradise, Nevada and is the main airport for public use in the Las Vegas Valley, a metropolitan area in the U.S. state of Nevada, about 5 miles (8 km) south of Downtown Las Vegas. The airport is owned by Clark County and operated by the Clark County Department of Aviation. It is named after the late U.S. Senator Pat McCarran, a member of the Democratic Party who contributed to the development of aviation both in Las Vegas and on a national scale. LAS covers 2,800 acres (11.3 km2) of land.

The airport was built in 1942 and opened to airline flights in 1948. It has expanded since then and has employed various innovative technologies, such as common-use facilities. The airport has four runways and two passenger terminals. East of the passenger terminals is the Marnell Air Cargo Center, and on the west side of the airport are fixed-base operators and helicopter companies. The airport services as a base for Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Spirit Airlines. It is the busiest airport in the United States that does not operate as a hub for any of the three U.S legacy carriers.

History


Postcard showing Senator McCarran at the original McCarran Field, 1941

The first airport at Las Vegas was Anderson Field, opened in November 1920 southeast of present-day Sahara Ave and Paradise Rd. Purchased by the Rockwell brothers in 1925, the airfield was renamed Rockwell Field, and in April 1926 Western Air Express (WAE) began carrying mail (and eventually passengers). When the brothers sold Rockwell Field and the new owner canceled WAE's lease, the airline had to look for another airport. Local businessman P. A. Simon had built an airfield northeast of the city (now Nellis Air Force Base) and WAE moved there in November 1929 and bought the field a few years later.

When the city tried to buy the field and build a more modern terminal, WAE refused, but with the advent of World War II WAE was pressured to sell. Nevada Senator Pat McCarran helped obtain federal funding for the city to buy the field and build a terminal. He also helped establish a gunnery school by the United States Army Air Corps at the field. For the senator's contributions, the airport was named McCarran Field in 1941.

A third airfield, Alamo Field, was established in 1942 by aviator George Crockett south of Las Vegas, at the present location of McCarran Airport. The Army sought to open a base at the site of McCarran Field, so Clark County purchased Alamo Field to make it its airline airport. Alamo Field became the new McCarran Field on December 19, 1948. Meanwhile, the Army reopened its base at the original McCarran Field in 1949 and named it Nellis Air Force Base in 1950.

Early expansion (1949–1996)[edit]

In its first year of operation McCarran Field served over 35,000 passengers. The April 1949 OAG shows 12 departures a day: 5 Western, 5 TWA and 2 United. The Las Vegas casino industry grew during the 1950s, and the airport handled 959,603 passengers in 1959. The May 1959 OAG shows 47 weekday departures: 13 Western, 11 United, 11 TWA, 9 Bonanza and 3 Pacific. The first jet flights were United 720s in September 1960.


A Gates and rotunda area with slot machines in 2007

Airport officials began planning a new passenger terminal; the original terminal was on Las Vegas Boulevard, and the new one was built on Paradise Road. The terminal, whose design was inspired by the TWA Flight Center in New York City, opened on March 15, 1963. The airport was renamed McCarran International Airport in September 1968. Further expansion took place between 1970 and 1974 with the construction of the A and B gates.

Before deregulation the airport had four dominant carriers: United and TWA served both coasts nonstop, while Western and Hughes Airwest flew to cities in the western US. After the airline industry was deregulated in 1978, the number of airlines at McCarran doubled from seven to fourteen by the end of 1979. New airlines included American, Braniff and Continental.

In response, the county launched an expansion plan, McCarran 2000, listing projects to be undertaken into the year 2000. Expanded baggage claim facilities, an esplanade, and a parking garage opened in 1985; the C Gates and the first line of the people mover system followed in 1987.

The Charter/International Terminal, later renamed Terminal 2, opened in December 1991 to handle international traffic. An additional, nine-story parking garage and a tunnel linking the Las Vegas Beltway to the airport were constructed as well. In June 1998, the southwest and southeast wings of the D Gates were opened.

In the late 1990s the airport focused on attracting foreign airlines. In 1994, Condor Flugdienst began charter flights from Germany, launching scheduled service from Cologne and Frankfurt in 1997. Northwest Airlines and Japan Airlines introduced flights from Tokyo in 1998, and Virgin Atlantic began flying from London–Gatwick in 2000.

Innovation and D Gates completion (1997–2011)[edit]


The finished D Gates in May 2009, with Terminal 3 under construction in the background

In 1997, the airport introduced Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE), becoming the first airport in the country to do so. With multiple airlines serving McCarran, it became inefficient to have separate facilities for each airline. CUTE allows for shared use of ticket counters and gates; an airline can overflow to inactive facilities during peak times.

McCarran furthered its common use strategy in 2003 with the SpeedCheck system, introducing Common-Use Self-Service (CUSS) kiosks. The kiosks allow passengers to check-in and print boarding passes for any one of multiple airlines. Previously, airlines had been installing their own check-in kiosks, defeating the use of CUTE and increasing congestion at the ticket counters. SpeedCheck kiosks have been installed at the Las Vegas Convention Center as well.

In January 2005 McCarran began offering complimentary Wi-Fi throughout its passenger terminals. The service initially covered 1.7 million square feet (160,000 m2), making it the largest free Wi-Fi zone among U.S. airports at the time. The northeast wing of the D Gates opened in April 2005, along with a 160 feet (49 m) air traffic control tower at the center of the concourse. The expansion had been postponed following the September 11 attacks but resumed amid high growth in passenger traffic. Later in the year, the airport started a baggage-tracking system using radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. Small RFID transmitters are inserted into baggage tags to improve bag identification, thereby lowering the risk for lost or misplaced luggage. McCarran became one of the first airports worldwide to conduct RFID tagging on a large scale.

On August 19, 2008 US Airways closed its night-flight hub at McCarran Airport, which had been established by predecessor America West Airlines in the 1990s. In order to maximize the use of its fleet, US Airways had been operating two banks of flights to and from McCarran in the middle of the night. The operation had made US Airways the second-busiest carrier at McCarran, providing over 100 daily round-trip flights. However, amid rising oil prices and continued demand for low fares, the airline decided to close the hub. In 2011, US Airways reduced flights to Las Vegas by an additional 40%.

In September 2008 the northwest wing of the D Gates was completed. This marked the completion of the concourse, which has a total of 44 gates.


New tower under construction, July 2013

In May 2011 construction began on a new air traffic control tower. The tower is 352 feet (107 m) tall and replaces a shorter tower that opened in 1983. In January 2014 it was discovered that a chemical coating to prevent the growth of a toxic fungus was added improperly. The problem was corrected by the following June, and the tower opened on August 28, 2016. The shorter tower will be closed and demolished.

Terminal 3 and later developments (2012–present)[edit]

Terminal 3 opened on June 27, 2012. The project was announced in January 2001 as a way to accommodate rapid growth in passenger traffic, including international traffic. It came into question amid the 2008 recession and decreased tourism to Las Vegas, but the county decided to proceed with the project, in anticipation of eventual economic recovery and a rebound in passenger numbers. Terminal 3 cost $2.4 billion to build and is one of the largest public works projects in Nevada. It replaced Terminal 2, providing more international gates and a larger U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility. With its seven domestic gates, the terminal also eases congestion at Terminal 1.

In a $51 million project, eight domestic gates in the D Gates (D19-D26) nearest to Concourse E were converted to seven "swing" gates, capable of receiving both domestic and international flights. The gates were connected to the customs facility in Terminal 3 by an underground pedestrian passageway. Gates D21/D22 were converted into the only 3-jetway gate at McCarran; this was done to provide a proper accommodation area for the double-decker Airbus A380. This conversion resulted in the conversion of Gate D23 to D22A, and this "swing" gate project was completed in June 2017. In addition, a $30 million renovation of Terminal 1's ticketing and baggage claim areas is underway as of December 2016. Improvements include refurbished bathrooms, new ticket counters, and terrazzo flooring.

In recent years, there have been attempts to rename the airport. Former U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, and Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak – all Democrats, as was McCarran – are currently pushing for a name change. The proposed names are Harry Reid Las Vegas International Airport and Las Vegas International Airport.

The airport control tower was closed for several days in 2020 after a controller tested positive for COVID-19. Airport operations continue using common traffic advisory frequency, though many flights are delayed or cancelled due to reduced capacity.


Facilities[edit]

Runways[edit]


Terminal 1, showing Concourses A and B. Concourse C extends to the right, out of view in 2011.


Check-in hall in Terminal 3 in 2015


Automated people mover at McCarran in 2011

McCarran Airport has four runways:



Runway


Length


Width


ILS


Notes




1L/19R


8,988 ft

2,740 m


150 ft

46 m


1L


ILS Category I, with DME



1R/19L


9,771 ft

2,978 m


150 ft

46 m






8L/26R


14,515 ft

4,424 m


150 ft

46 m


26R


ILS Category I, with DME

Second longest civil runway in North America



8R/26L


10,525 ft

3,208 m


150 ft

46 m


26L


ILS Category I




All runways have been resurfaced with concrete, a more durable material than the previous asphalt. In April 2016, 8L/26R was the last runway to be resurfaced; it is the longest at McCarran and serves a third of the airport's traffic. Parallel to it is runway 8R/26L, which opened in 1991. On the western side of the airport are runways 1L/19R and 1R/19L. 1L/19R was a 5000-foot runway for light aircraft before it was widened and lengthened in 1997. Between the two sets of parallel runways was runway 14/32, which has been decommissioned. Runways 8L/26R and 8R/26L were previously 7L/25R and 7R/25L. The runways were renumbered 8L/26R and 8R/26L in August 2017 due to a shift in direction of the Earth's magnetic field.

Dry weather at McCarran allows operations under visual flying rules 99% of the time. During most of the year (about 56% of the time) the airport uses Visual Configuration 1: runways 19R and 26L for arrivals and 19L and 26R for departures. Airfield capacity in Configuration 1 is constrained by bordering military airspace, high terrain to the west, and an uphill departure from 26R. Because of the heat, 26R is favored over 19L for departures. When the winds shift in the winter (about 13% of the year), the airfield adopts Visual Configuration 3, which uses 01L and 26L for arrivals and 01L and 01R for departures. Marginal flying conditions adopt the same Configuration 1/Configuration 3 split based on the prevailing winds. In instrument weather, arrivals are preferred on 26L, and departures take off from 19L and 26R.

Terminals[edit][]

There are two terminals at McCarran and 5 concourses with a total of 92 gates. Terminal 1 was completed in 1963, Terminal 2 was completed in 1986, and Terminal 3 was completed in 2012. Prior to the completion of Terminal 3, Terminal 2 handled international flights. After Terminal 3 was completed, Terminal 2 became redundant and it was demolished in 2016.

Terminal 1 opened on March 15, 1963, and was expanded between 1970 and 1974 with the current A and B Gates buildings. Currently, Terminal 1 has four concourses, each of which is connected to a central pre-security area. Ticketing and baggage claim are located on Level 1 of this area. Level 2 houses the three security checkpoints, an esplanade with several retail outlets, and a USO lounge for military service members. West of the pre-security area are the A Gates and the B Gates, two Y-shaped concourses with circular ends. To the south are the C Gates, which can be accessed by the Green Line of the tram system. The satellite D Gates concourse, which opened in 1998, lies to the east and contains three lounges: the Centurion lounge for American Express card holders; the Club at LAS, which is available to all passengers at a fee and free for Priority Pass cardholders; and the United Club, a lounge accessible to United frequent flyers and club membership holders. The Blue Line of the tram system links the D Gates with the pre-security area.

Terminal 3 was also built on the eastern side of the McCarran Airport Corridor, and is located just north of Concourse D. Level 0 of the terminal contains customs, baggage claim, and another USO lounge. Check-in, security, a second Club at LAS, and all gates are on Level 2. The terminal has 14 gates, seven domestic (E8–E12, E14–E15) and the other seven international (E1–E7); Concourse E and the D19-D26 "swing gates" at Concourse D (the part of Concourse D that is nearest to Concourse E) handle all international flights.  Four of the international gates have two jetways each to allow for quicker handling of wide-body aircraft. Passengers flying Air Canada, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, and United Airlines all check-in and receive baggage at Terminal 3, but depart out of the D gates. The Red Line of the tram system links Terminal 3 with the D Gates.

Automated people mover[edit][]

Main article: McCarran International Airport Automated People Movers

McCarran has three separate tram lines:

  • Green line, connecting Terminal 1 with C Gates
  • Blue line, connecting Terminal 1 with D Gates
  • Red line, connecting Terminal 3 with D Gates

Ground transportation[edit][]


A shuttle about to depart Terminal 1 for the rental car center in 2010 Road access to McCarran Airport is provided by Paradise Road to the north and by the McCarran Airport Connector to the south, which connects to the Las Vegas Beltway.

Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 have their own parking garages. Each also has its own economy lot, which provides lower parking rates, and a separate lot for oversize vehicles. Complimentary shuttle transportation is provided between the terminals and the remote Terminal 1 economy and oversize vehicle lots. In March 2016, the airport opened a cellphone lot, which provides free parking to people waiting for passengers.

A consolidated rental car facility opened in April 2007, located about 3 miles (4.8 km) from the airport. The facility, which sits on 68 acres (28 ha) of land, houses multiple rental car companies with 5,000 parking spaces on multiple levels. Courtesy shuttles transport passengers between the airport and the facility.

For transportation between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, McCarran Airport provides a free shuttle service, which leaves from Level 0 of both terminals.

RTC Transit provides bus transportation to and from various parts of the Las Vegas Valley. Route 108, Route 109, the Westcliff Airport Express and the Centennial Express provide direct access to the airport. Buses depart from Level 0 of Terminal 1 and Level 2 of Terminal 3.

Other facilities[edit][]

A small parking lot on the south side of the airport, on E. Sunset Road, between Las Vegas Blvd., and S. Eastern Ave, allows the public to watch aircraft take off, land, and listen to the aircraft radios. This is the only "official" watching area. There are several unofficial areas, mainly off the ends of the runways, however they are heavily patrolled by Las Vegas Metro Police and spectators are commonly asked to leave. The public watching area is currently closed due to COVID regulations.

Atlantic Aviation and Signature Flight Support are the two fixed-base operators (FBOs) at the airport, providing various services to private aircraft. Engine 13 of the Clark County Fire Department is located on the grounds of McCarran International Airport.

Maverick Helicopters and Papillion Grand Canyon Helicopters each operate their own terminal at McCarran Airport. The Maverick terminal covers 6,000 square feet (560 m2), while the Sundance terminal occupies 13,000 square feet (1,200 m2). The Papillion terminal was established in 1997. The companies provide helicopter tours over the Las Vegas Strip, Grand Canyon, and other tourist attractions.

Sundance Helicopters ceased operations in September 2020 due to the COVID-19 recession.

Janet flights depart from a private terminal located on the west side of the airport. The airline, which is owned by the U.S. Air Force and operated by AECOM, transports employees and contractors to airports within the Nevada National Security Site.

The Marnell Air Cargo Center covers 200,928 square feet (18,666.8 m2) and can handle 100,000 short tons (91,000 t) of cargo. The $29 million facility opened in October 2010, replacing a smaller facility that existed at the site of Terminal 3. The center consists of two buildings, one of which is leased by FedEx and the other by multiple other companies, including UPS and Southwest Airlines.

The main exhibits of the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum are located on Level 2 of Terminal 1, above baggage claim. There are additional exhibits throughout the airport and at other airports in the city. Display items chronicle the early history of aviation in Southern Nevada. The museum is named after former Nevada Senator Howard Cannon, who contributed to the development of aviation in the county. Its administrator is Mark Hall-Patton, who has appeared on the reality television show Pawn Stars.

Airlines and destinations[edit][]

Passenger[edit][]

Airlines Destinations Refs
Aeroméxico Mexico City
Aeroméxico Connect Monterrey
Air Canada Rouge Calgary, Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver
Alaska Airlines Anchorage (begins May 20, 2021), Everett, Los Angeles, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma
Allegiant Air Albuquerque, Appleton, Asheville (begins March 4, 2021), Austin, Belleville/St. Louis, Bellingham, Billings, Bismarck, Boise, Bozeman, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Chicago–Rockford, Cincinnati, Des Moines, El Paso, Eugene, Fargo, Fayetteville/Bentonville, Flint (begins March 4, 2021), Fort Wayne, Fresno, Grand Forks, Grand Island, Grand Junction, Grand Rapids, Great Falls, Idaho Falls, Indianapolis, Kalispell, Knoxville, Laredo, Los Angeles, Louisville, McAllen, Medford, Memphis, Minot, Missoula, Moline/Quad Cities, Monterey, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orange County (CA) (begins February 18, 2021), Peoria, Phoenix/Mesa, Rapid City, Redmond (OR), Reno/Tahoe, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Maria (CA), Shreveport, Sioux Falls, South Bend, Spokane (begins February 11, 2021), Springfield/Branson, Stockton, Tri-Cities (WA), Tucson, Tulsa, Wichita

Seasonal: Jackson Hole (begins June 4, 2021)

American Airlines Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York–JFK, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Washington–National
British Airways London–Gatwick, London–Heathrow
Condor Frankfurt
Copa Airlines Panama City–Tocumen
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, Raleigh/Durham (resumes March 2, 2021), Salt Lake City, Seattle/Tacoma
Delta Connection Los Angeles

Seasonal: Orange County, Portland (OR), San Diego, San Jose (CA)

Edelweiss Air Seasonal: Zürich
Eurowings Frankfurt
Frontier Airlines Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, El Paso (begins March 11, 2021), Houston–Intercontinental, Indianapolis, Little Rock (begins March 11, 2021), Long Island/Islip (begins March 18, 2021), Los Angeles, Madison, Miami, Milwaukee, Nashville, Newark, Norfolk, Oakland (begins February 5, 2021), Oklahoma City (begins March 12, 2021), Omaha, Ontario (CA) (resumes February 11, 2021), Orange County, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Portland (OR), Puerto Vallarta (begins March 25, 2021), Raleigh/Durham, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), San José del Cabo (begins March 26, 2021), Seattle/Tacoma, Spokane, Tampa, Washington–Dulles, Wichita (begins March 12, 2021)
Hawaiian Airlines Honolulu, Kahului
JetBlue Boston, Cancún (begins March 4, 2021), Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Los Angeles, Newark, New York–JFK, Raleigh/Durham (begins March 4, 2021), Richmond
JSX Burbank, Oakland, Orange County, Phoenix–Sky Harbor

Seasonal: Salt Lake City (begins January 31, 2021)

KLM Amsterdam
Southwest Airlines Albuquerque, Amarillo, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham (AL), Boise, Buffalo, Burbank, Chicago–Midway, Cleveland, Colorado Springs (begins March 11, 2021), Columbus–Glenn, Dallas–Love, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, El Paso, Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Hobby, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Louisville, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Ontario, Orange County, Orlando, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Raleigh/Durham, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), Seattle/Tacoma, Spokane, Tampa, Tucson, Tulsa, Wichita

Seasonal: Albany, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia

Spirit Airlines Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Burbank, Chicago–O'Hare, Cleveland, Columbus–Glenn, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Intercontinental, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, Newark, New Orleans, Oakland, Orange County, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa
Sun Country Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Seasonal: Los Angeles, Madison, St. Louis, San Antonio

Swoop Edmonton

Seasonal: Toronto–Pearson

United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Washington–Dulles
United Express Los Angeles, San Francisco
Virgin Atlantic London–Heathrow
VivaAerobus Mexico City

Seasonal: Monterrey

Volaris Guadalajara, León/Del Bajío, Mexico City
WestJet Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver, Winnipeg

Seasonal: Regina, Saskatoon

Cargo[]

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