McCarran International Airport

McCarran International Airport is the principal commercial airport serving Las Vegas and Clark County, Nevada. The airport is located five miles (8 km) south of the central business district of Las Vegas, in the unincorporated town of Paradise. 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). It serves as a focus city for Allegiant Air, Southwest Airlines, and US Airways; McCarran is also the largest operation base for both Allegiant and Southwest.

In 2007, McCarran ranked 14th in the world for passenger traffic, with 47,595,140 passengers passing through the terminal. The airport ranked 6th in the world for aircraft movements (down from fifth in 2006), with 609,472 takeoffs and landings. McCarran and the DOA are completely self-sufficient enterprises, requiring no money from the County's general fund.

As of September 2008, 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. The US Airways night-flight hub operation, established in 1986 by predecessor America West Airlines, makes the carrier McCarran's second busiest airline. Due to the 2008 energy crisis the night hub was closed in September 2008. US Airways will also cut another seven flights by the end of the year, resulting in a drastic decrease of the airline's operations at McCarran.

The top five largest scheduled airlines at McCarran in number of passengers carried in 2007 are Southwest Airlines (34.63%), US Airways/ US Airways Express (21.98%), United Airlines/ United Express (7.16%), Delta Airlines/ Delta Connection (5.67%), and American Airlines/ American Eagle (4.84%).

McCarran Airport is somewhat unusual in that it has more than 1,300 slot machines throughout the airport terminals. Reno/Tahoe International Airport also has gambling machines both airside and landside.

Maximum capacity for the airport is estimated at 53 million passengers and 625,000 aircraft movements. As McCarran is predicted to reach this capacity around 2017, Ivanpah Airport is planned as a relief airport.


American aviator George Crockett, a descendant of frontiersman Davy Crockett, established Alamo Airport in 1942 on the site currently occupied by McCarran International. 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. The terminal, designed by Welton Becket and Associates and John Replogle, was inspired by the TWA terminal at JFK. It ultimately became the basis for the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport seven years later.

In 1978, Senator Howard Cannon, was able to push the Airline Deregulation Act through Congress. Airlines no longer had to get the federal government's permission to fly to destinations, but instead dealt directly with the 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 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.

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, eliminated 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 remained the nation's only major airport 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 supports several airlines' use of the Cockpit Access Security System, or CASS.

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. 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. This system was enhanced to add printing of baggage tags in 2005.

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 for free. The signal is available in the boarding areas and most other public areas. The airport was the first to provide this as a free service for the entire facility. At the time, this was the largest (2 million square feet (180,000 m²)) free wireless Internet installation in the world.

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

On April 4, 2007, the Consolidated Rent-a-Car facility, located from the terminals, opened with 5,000 parking spaces on 68 acres of land. A fleet of 40 buses provides transportation from the terminals to the facility which houses 11 car rental companies. Advantage, Savmore, Payless, and Enterprise will use a new access control system. This system will be based on barcodes.

Terminals, airlines and destinations

McCarran International Airport has two public passenger terminals. Other terminals service private aircraft, US government contractors, sightseeing flights and cargo.

Terminal 1

Terminal 1 handles most flights and contains 96 gates in four concourses. People movers connect concourses C and D with the Terminal 1 check-in and baggage claim areas.

Concourse A

Concourse A has 19 gates: A1, A3-A5, A7, A8, A10-A12, A14, A15, A17-A24

  • US Airways (Baltimore/Washington, Boston, Calgary, Charlotte, Chicago-O'Hare, Columbus (OH), Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-JFK, Orange County, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver, Washington-Reagan)
  • WestJet (Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna [seasonal], Regina [seasonal], Saskatoon [seasonal], Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg)

Concourse B

Concourse B has 20 gates: B1-B4, B6, B8-B12, B14, B15, B17, B19-B25.

  • Southwest Airlines (Albany, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Austin, Baltimore/Washington, Birmingham (AL), Boise, Buffalo, Burbank, Chicago-Midway, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Denver, El Paso, Fort Lauderdale [begins November 2], Hartford, Houston-Hobby, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Little Rock, Long Island/Islip, Los Angeles, Louisville, Lubbock, Manchester (NH), Midland/Odessa, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Ontario, Orange County, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Providence, 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, Washington-Dulles)
  • US Airways (See Concourse A)

Concourse C

Concourse C has 20 gates: C1, C2, C4, C5, C7-C9, C11, C12, C14, C16, C18, C19, C21-C27.

Concourse D

Concourse D has 37 gates: D1-D12, D14, D16-D26, D31-D43. Concourse D is a satellite gate building, which is accessed by a people mover system.

Terminal 2

Also known as the Charter International Terminal, Terminal 2 contains eight gates (T2-1 through T2-8), four of which are for international flights. All international arrivals must go through Terminal 2 (although WestJet flights disembark at Terminal 1) so passengers can clear customs. Terminal 2 also handles most charter flights.


Besides scheduled services, McCarran is a major hub for sightseeing flights. As such, many charter airlines, usually using Terminal 2, are regular users of McCarran.


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


CAT buses 108 & 109 connect the airport to downtown.


As the airport continues through the process of upgrading and expanding there is a list of projects due to be completed before 2011:

Terminal 3

The new $1.6 billion Terminal 3 will be built in one phase. Its planned opening in early-2012 would provide 14 additional gates, including six designated for international travelers. Once it opens, McCarran will have 117 gates. Like terminal 2, it will be all inclusive providing bag claim, ticketing and parking facilities.

Las Vegas Monorail Connection

A plan to extend the Las Vegas Monorail to McCarran is under consideration. The proposed extension add stops at Terminal 1 and at Terminal 3.

Other projects

  • Baggage claim — Terminal 1 — new baggage claim devices (estimated 2008)
  • Aircraft apron reconstruction and Terminal 1 rehabilitation (ongoing)

Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum

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.

Airport public art

Some of the public art displays in McCarran Airport includes:

Airline lounges

US Airways operates a US Airways Club outside security, above the ticket counters in Terminal 1. Open from 5am to 12am daily.

The airport operates a VIP room 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. Open from 5:30am to 12:30am daily.


External links

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