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McCarran International Airport

Entrance sign McCarran International Airport is the principal commercial airport serving Las Vegas and Clark County, Nevada, United States. The airport is located five miles (8 km) south of the central business district of Las Vegas, in the unincorporated area of Paradise in Clark County. It covers an area of and has four runways. McCarran is owned by Clark County and operated by the Clark County Department of Aviation (DOA). McCarran Airport serves as a hub for Great Lakes Airlines. It serves as a focus city for Allegiant Air and Southwest Airlines; McCarran is also the largest operation base for both Allegiant and Southwest. The airport became a crew and maintenance base for Spirit Airlines in February 2012.[1] It is named after the former Nevada Senator Pat McCarran.

In 2010, McCarran ranked 22nd in the world for passenger traffic, with 39,757,359 passengers passing through the terminal.[2] The airport ranked 9th in the world for aircraft movements with 505,591 takeoffs and landings.[3] McCarran and the DOA are completely self-sufficient enterprises, requiring no money from the County's general fund.[4]

As of November 2009, Southwest Airlines operated more flights out of McCarran than at any other airport. Southwest also carries the most passengers in and out of McCarran. Southwest currently operates out of 21 gates, primarily in Concourse C. Since 2008, Canadian airline WestJet has become the largest international carrier at McCarran.[5]

The top five largest scheduled airlines at McCarran in number of passengers carried in the first 11 months of 2009 are Southwest Airlines (38.3%), US Airways/US Airways Express (11.8%), United Airlines/United Express (6.9%), Delta Air Lines/Delta Connection (5.6%), and American Airlines (5.5%).[6]

McCarran Airport has more than 1,234 slot machines throughout the airport terminals. The slots are owned and operated by Michael Gaughan Airport Slots. Reno/Tahoe International Airport also has 251 gambling machines both airside and landside.[7]



McCarran passengers wait for baggage, with aviation historical artifacts hanging above.
McCarran passengers wait for baggage, with aviation historical artifacts hanging above.
American aviator George Crockett, a descendant of frontiersman Davy Crockett, established Alamo Airport in 1942 on the site currently occupied by McCarran International. In 1929, the old Las Vegas Airport, which would become Nellis AFB, was nothing more than a dirt runway, a water well and a small operations shack for Western Air Express Airlines. The United States Army Air Corps had been looking at the Las Vegas area since the 1930s, when it had used the Western Air Express Field later renamed McCarran Field, northeast of Las Vegas for its training flights. In 1941, the Army concluded a lease with the City of Las Vegas to use McCarran Field until construction was completed on the gunnery range airfield. In 1942, the old Las Vegas Airport was still operating commercial flights, when TWA Flight 3 crashed. On January 16, 1942, 15 minutes after takeoff from the old Las Vegas Airport (now Nellis AFB) bound for Burbank, the aircraft slammed into a sheer cliff on Potosi Mountain, 32 miles southwest of the airport, at an elevation of 7,770 ft above sea level, and was destroyed. All nineteen passengers on board, including movie star Carole Lombard, married to Hollywood legend Clark Gable, with her mother, and all three crew members, died in the crash. In 1948, Clark County purchased the airfield from Crockett to establish the Clark County Public Airport, and all commercial operations moved to the site of this airport. On December 20, 1948 the airport was renamed McCarran Field for U.S. Senator Pat McCarran, a longtime Nevada politician who authored the Civil Aeronautics Act and played a major role in developing aviation nationwide.

By this time, the airport was serving 1.5 million passengers a year, the location for the present terminals was moved from Las Vegas Boulevard South to Paradise Road, opening in March 1963.[8] The terminal, designed by Welton Becket and Associates and John Replogle, was inspired by the TWA terminal at JFK.[8] It ultimately became the basis for the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport seven years later.

In 1978, Senator Howard Cannon pushed the Airline Deregulation Act through Congress. Airlines no longer had to get the federal government's permission to fly to a city, but instead dealt directly with airports to establish additional routes. Just after deregulation, the number of airlines serving McCarran doubled from seven to 14.

An expansion plan called McCarran 2000 was adopted in 1978 and funded by a $300 million bond issue in 1982. The three-phase plan included a new central terminal; a nine-level parking facility; runway additions and expansions; additional gates; upgraded passenger assistance facilities; and a new tunnel and revamped roadways into the airport. The first phase of McCarran 2000 opened in 1985 and was completed by 1987.

McCarran International Airport's main taxiway.
McCarran International Airport's main taxiway.
Between 1986 and 1997, Terminal 2 was built where two separate terminals had been in the 1970s and 1980s; one for American Airlines and the other for Pacific Southwest Airlines.

In the 1990s all gates and check in counters were upgraded to use a common set of computer hardware. CUTE, Common Use Terminal Equipment. This eliminates the need for each airline to have their own equipment and allows the airport to reassign gates and counters without having to address individual airlines' computer systems. While portions of Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport deployed CUTE prior to McCarran, as of 2008 it remains the only major airport in the USA that is 100 percent common use. (White Plains, N.Y., is also a 100 percent common use airport, though it has only eight gates.) McCarran's CUTE system also supports several airlines' use of the Cockpit Access Security System, or CASS. In Europe, and to some extent the Asia-Pacific rim, CUTE has been widely prevalent for much longer.

In 1998, the D Gates SE and SW wings opened adding 28 gates. The D Gates project is a modification to the original McCarran 2000 plan.

On October 16, 2003, the airport installed SpeedCheck kiosks which allow customers to obtain a boarding pass without having to go to a specific airline kiosk or counter. McCarran was the first airport in the US to provide this service and the first in the world to provide the service to all airlines from a single kiosk.[9][10][11] At the same time, 6 kiosks were activated at the Las Vegas Convention Center allowing convention attendees to get boarding passes on their way to the airport.[9] This system was enhanced to add printing of baggage tags in 2005.

Slot machines at the baggage claim
Slot machines at the baggage claim
In 2003 the airport announced it was implementing a baggage-tracking system that will use Radio-frequency identification (RFID) bag tags from Matrics Inc. to improve air safety. The decision to implement the tracking system makes McCarran one of the first airports to use the RFID technology airportwide.

On January 4, 2005, the airport started offering wireless internet service at no charge. The signal is available in the boarding areas and most other public areas. While not the first airport to offer free WiFi throughout the entire facility,[12] the airport was perhaps the first major airport with free WiFi throughout. At the time, this was the largest (2 million square feet (180,000 m )) free wireless Internet installation in the world.[13]

In 2005, the D Gates NE wing opened adding 10 gates.

On April 4, 2007, the consolidated rental car facility opened, located from the terminals (see Transportation section). The distance from the airport (including a segment of US Interstate 215) requires the facility be permanently linked via bus to the airport.

In 2008, the D Gates NW wing opened with additional 9 gates.

Due to Continental Airlines moving into the Star Alliance, along with cost-cutting moves at US Airways because of the 2008 night-flight hub closure, the US Airways Club was closed on September 13, 2009. All passengers flying on US Airways or United Airlines can access the Presidents Club in Concourse D starting on October 25.[14] Delta Air Lines' Crown Room lounge had previously closed in 2001.

The US Airways night-flight hub operation, established in 1986 by predecessor America West Airlines, made the carrier McCarran's second busiest airline. Due to the 2008 energy crisis the night hub was closed in September 2008. US Airways closed its crew base on January 31, 2010.[15] On August 31, 2011, US Airways announced that it will keep shrinking its operations by cutting 40% of its flights out of Las Vegas. The airline eliminated nonstop service to Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Francisco on November 29, 2011 leaving the airline with only flights from Las Vegas to its hubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and its focus city at Washington Reagan National Airport.[16]

Terminals, airlines and destinations

Destinations with direct service from Las Vegas
Destinations with direct service from Las Vegas
USGS-image of the airport (circa 1994)
USGS-image of the airport (circa 1994)
The airport is near the Las Vegas Strip
Southwest Airlines passenger gates
Southwest Airlines passenger gates
Welcome to McCarran airport sign at Concourse D
Welcome to McCarran airport sign at Concourse D
An Allegiant Air McDonnell Douglas MD-80 at McCarran International Airport (2009) McCarran International Airport has two public passenger terminals. Other terminals service private aircraft, US government contractors, sightseeing flights and cargo.

  • Terminal 1 handles most flights and contains an overall 96 gates in four concourses: Concourse A (A1, A3-A5, A7, A8, A10-A12, A14, A15, A17-A24), Concourse B (gates B1-B2, B6, B9-B12, B14, B15, B17, B19-B25), Concourse C (gates C1-C4, C5, C7-C9, C11, C12, C14, C16, C18, C19, C21-C25), and Concourse D (gates D1-D12, D14, D16-D26, D31-D43, D50-D58). The McCarran International Airport People Movers connect the satellite concourses C and D with the centralized check-in and baggage claim areas.
  • Terminal 2 is used for all international as well as most charter flights into Las Vegas. It contains 8 gates (T2-1 through T2-8), 4 of which are equipped with facilities for international flights. Upon completion of Terminal 3, Terminal 2 will close permanently and all international flights will move to Terminal 3.
  • Terminal 3, opening June 27, 2012,[17] will be used for all international flights as well as scheduled airlines. The terminal will contain 14 gates (E1-E12, E14-15), with the easternmost 6 gates being used for international flights. A people mover system will connect Terminal 3 to Concourse D.

  • These international airlines will move their ticketing positions and gates to Terminal 3 on June 27, 2012.
  • These domestic airlines will move their ticketing positions and gates to Terminal 3 on July 31, 2012.
  • These airlines will move their ticketing positions to Terminal 3 but will operate out of Concourse D in late August 2012.

Top Destinations

Busiest Domestic Routes from Las Vegas (March 2011 February 2012)[19]
Rank City Passengers Top Carriers
1 Los Angeles, California 1,151,000 American, Delta, Southwest, Spirit, United
2 San Francisco, California 881,000 Southwest, United, Virgin America
3 Denver, Colorado 876,000 Frontier, Southwest, United, Spirit
4 Phoenix, Arizona 760,000 Southwest, US Airways
5 Atlanta, Georgia 717,000 AirTran, Delta
6 Chicago (O'Hare), Illinois 646,000 American, Spirit, United
7 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 587,000 American, Spirit
8 Seattle, Washington 565,000 Alaska, Southwest
9 New York (JFK), New York 555,000 American, Delta, JetBlue, Virgin America
10 Salt Lake City, Utah 475,000 Delta, Southwest

Top International Carriers


Rank Airline Passengers (2010) Destinations
1 WestJet 798,435 Calgary, Edmonton, Montr al-Trudeau, Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver, Winnipeg Seasonal: Hamilton, Kelowna, London (ON), Ottawa, Prince George, Regina, Saskatoon, Victoria
2 Air Canada 423,029 Calgary, Montr al-Trudeau, Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver
3 Virgin Atlantic Airways 275,533 London-Gatwick, Manchester (UK)
4 British Airways 176,098 London-Heathrow
5 Mexicana 133,696 No longer operating
6 Aeromexico 126,558 Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey
7 Philippine Airlines 70,389 Manila, Vancouver
8 Korean Air 55,140 Seoul-Incheon
9 Condor 52,505 Frankfurt
10 Sunwing Airlines 51,516 Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver


At McCarran, there is a terminal devoted to cargo airline operations for:

In 2004, McCarran handled 201,135,520 pounds of cargo.

Other terminal operations


Ground transportation to McCarran Airport is from Tropicana Avenue (State Route 593) to the north or the Las Vegas Beltway (Interstate 215) to the south. Vehicles enter the airport via the McCarran Airport Connector, which includes Paradise Road/Swenson Street and the airport tunnel.

The airport is served by taxicabs operated by various firms. The airport is further served by RTC Transit, the public bus service of the Las Vegas valley. RTC buses stop at Terminal 1 outside the Zero Level.[21]

  • Route #108 provides service to Downtown Las Vegas & Bonnevile Transit Center.
  • Route #109 services the South Strip Transfer Terminal, the consolidated rental car facility, Downtown Las Vegas, Bonnevile Transit Center, & Maryland Parkway. Route #109 operates 24 hours a day.
  • "Westcliff Airport Express" provides direct bus service to The Strip around MGM Grand, New York, New York, Tropicana, & Excalibur Hotels as well as Las Vegas Premium Outlets North, Bonnevile Transit Center, Downtown Las Vegas, & Suncoast Hotel.
  • "Strip & Downtown Express" bus service along the Las Vegas Strip connects with Route 109 (south) at the South Strip Transfer Terminal between the hours of 9:00am & 12:30am. "The Deuce on The Strip" service connects with Route 109 between the hours of 12:30am & 9:00am.

The Consolidated Rental Car Facility, located from the airport at 7135 Gilespie Street, provides 5,000 parking spaces on of land. A fleet of 40 buses provides free transportation from the terminals to the facility, which upon opening housed 11 car rental companies.[22] The Facility is not accessible by foot from the Strip. It is accessed by customers primarily via US Interstate 215, or by bus. Rental firms strongly advise customers to allow additional time to account for locating and driving to the facility, and the bus ride back to the airport. Advantage, Savmore, Payless, and Enterprise use an access control system based on single-use bar codes.[23] Participating agencies issue a slip similar to a slot-machine voucher which activates vehicle anti-theft devices in the rental lot, permitting the single vehicle to exit the lot.


In 2007, airport officials estimated the maximum capacity for the airport at 53 million passengers and 625,000 aircraft movements per year. As McCarran was predicted to reach this capacity around 2017, Ivanpah Airport near Primm was planned as a relief airport in the late 1990s.[24] However, due to a downturn in traffic due to the Great Recession, the passenger count dropped to 39.8 million in 2010. Also, recently the FAA began making progress on the Next Generation Air Transportation System to allow more flights per hour essentially increasing capacity beyond 53 million passengers per year. As of June 2011, the Ivanpah Airport is completing environmental assessments but is officially on hold while the Department of Aviation has asked airport planners to study adding additional gates to the former Terminal 2 site once Terminal 3 opens for additional capacity.[25]

Terminal 3

The new $1.6 billion Terminal 3 will be built in one phase. Its planned opening on June 27, 2012 will provide 14 additional gates, including seven designated for international travelers. Once the terminal opens, McCarran will have 117 gates. Like Terminal 2, it will be all inclusive providing bag claim, ticketing and parking facilities. Upon completion of Terminal 3, Terminal 2 will close permanently.

Terminal 3 will be the future home of all foreign flag carriers, as well as Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Sun Country Airlines, Virgin America Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines. All of these airlines will have ticketing and baggage claim facilities at Terminal 3, but some, United and Hawaiian Airlines, will continue to operate in Concourse D.[26]

Las Vegas Monorail connection

A plan to extend the Las Vegas Monorail to McCarran is under consideration. This proposed extension will add underground stations at Terminal 1 and at Terminal 3.[27] The part of the extension north of the airport will be elevated. This expansion is opposed by taxi and limousine services who garner significant revenues shuttling the public to and from the airport.[28]

Other projects

  • Aircraft apron reconstruction and Terminal 1 rehabilitation (ongoing)
  • New FAA control tower

Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum

Concourse D Exhibits Concourse D Exhibits The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum is located on the Esplanade, Level 2, above the baggage claim area. This small museum is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and concentrates on Las Vegas airline history. Items on display include a copy of the first emergency vehicle that was used on the airfield. Admittance is free. A small branch of the museum is located at the D gates, and some of the other concourses and check-in areas also have small displays. The current curator of the museum is Mark Hall-Patton, a 20th century historian and administrator of the Clark County Museum, who has frequently appeared as an appraisal expert on the reality television series, Pawn Stars.[29][30]

Airport public art

Some of the public art displays in McCarran Airport includes:

  • Murals in McCarran International Airport D Gates (artists include Tom Holder, Mary Warner, Robert Beckmann, Harold Bradford)
  • Greg LeFevre's Flights Paths — in the D Gates rotunda's terrazzo floor
  • Tony Milici's steel and glass sculpture at McCarran's D Gates
  • McCarran's D Gates feature wall tiles of international skylines by sixteen Clark County fourth graders
  • Wildlife sculptures of Clark County wildlife at the D Gates, by David L Phelps

Airline lounges

The airport operates a VIP lounge in Terminal 2 for full fare first class passengers.

On July 12, 2008, Continental Airlines added a Presidents Club in Terminal 1, Concourse D located between gates 33 and 35 on the 3rd floor. Following the merger with United Airlines, it has been rebranded as a United Club. This club is open from 5:30 AM to 12:30 AM daily and is also open to US Airways Club members.

A USO lounge for American service members was opened on November 11, 2010 in Terminal 1.[31]

When the new Terminal 3 opens, Gideon Toal Management Services will open a generic lounge and contract with multiple carriers so that passengers of many airlines will be able to use one facility.[32]

Media appearances

  • McCarran Airport was featured in Diamonds Are Forever as James Bond (Sean Connery) lands there and walk out of the front of the terminal (1971)
  • The mission "Secret Shuttle" supplied with Microsoft Flight Simulator X begins at McCarran International Airport.
  • McCarran Airport was featured during the cataclysmic destruction of Las Vegas in the disaster film 2012.
  • McCarran Airport was also featured in the 2001 Brett Ratner film Rush Hour 2 where Secret Service Agent Isabella Molina (Roselyn S nchez), Secret Service Agent Sterling (Harris Yulin), Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) fly from McCarran Airport.
  • McCarran Airport is featured in the 2010 video game Fallout: New Vegas as a post-apocalyptic base of operations (Called "Camp McCarran") for the NCR (New California Republic)
  • The 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas features the airport as Las Venturas International Airport.
  • McCarran Airport is the setting for the climactic scene in the 1988 film Midnight Run with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, directed by Martin Brest.


External links

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