Four million and counting.
That's the number of arriving and departing passengers who trooped through McCarran International Airport in March, airport officials said Tuesday.
The 4.04 million passenger count was the first time the Las Vegas airport topped the 4 million mark. The figure was 3.1 percent higher than the 3.9 million seen in March 2005.
Randall Walker, Clark County director of aviation, said similar monthly totals will soon become common.
"We'll have some more 4 million months this year, but then next year we may have a year where most if not all months will be 4 million," Walker said.
Southwest Airlines, traditionally the busiest carrier at the airport, again posted strong numbers. The Dallas-based carrier recorded 1.36 million passengers - roughly one-third of the total count. Its passenger load was up 12.1 percent from March 2005.
Other major carriers at the airport saw mixed results.
America West, which still reports passenger numbers separate from US Airways despite last year's merger, recorded 640,667 passengers, a 1.1 percent drop from 647,634 of last year.
United Airlines, typically the No. 3 carrier, posted a 9.1 percent gain with 317,025 passengers in March vs. 290,695 in the same month last year.
Figures for fourth-ranked American Airlines were virtually unchanged. The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier recorded 220,425 passengers in March, a barely perceptible increase from 220,207 last year.
But Delta Air Lines posted a major drop in March. The number of passengers for the Atlanta-based carrier still under bankruptcy protection dropped to 214,509 from 267,525 last year.
Walker said bankruptcy is behind the changes in Delta's numbers.
"They are starting to shed some of their capacity to get their costs under control," Walker said.
Walker added that Southern Nevada's hotel industry continues to drive airport growth.
"Their numbers are record numbers, (and there is a) record number of hotel rooms. And clearly that drives our demand," Walker said.
Some smaller carriers had noticeable results in March.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines recorded 125,108 passenger in March - an 88 percent increase from 66,426 passengers in March for 2005. Air Canada checked in with 48,498 passengers in March, an increase of 154.1 percent from the 19,087 in March of last year. And Condor Airlines, a German carrier specializing in vacation packages, recorded a 137-percent increase based on 4,056 passengers this March compared with 1,708 in the same month last year.
Sun Country, however, posted less impressive numbers. The Minneapolis/St. Paul-based carrier had 39,493 passengers in March compared to 58,758 in the same month last year - a 44.2 percent decrease.
Walker doesn't expect significant growth from major airlines.
For the year to date, McCarran's numbers are up. Through March, the airport has seen nearly 10.9 million passengers, a 5 percent increase from about 10.4 million in the first quarter of 2005.
But Walker predicted that the 5 percent growth rate won't be sustained for the rest of 2006. He said growth would average 4 percent this year, which would result in a year-end total of 46 million passengers.
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The nation's sixth-busiest airport is already nearing its ultimate capacity of 53 million annual passengers, a limit imposed by a runway system that cannot be expanded because of nearby development.
A McCarran spokeswoman said Wednesday that the variation resulted from the airport's ability to obtain updated statistics from airlines.
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