Las Vegas sees increased hub connectivity as another European major takes a bet on the destination’s growing corporate and leisure appeal

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport is among the ten largest airports in the United States of America (USA), handling approaching 50 million passengers per year. It is actually ranked eighth in the country and 27th in the world by demand, but this traffic has historically been dominated by domestic travellers as Americans travel to the resort city, famed for its vibrant nightlife, centred around 24-hour casinos and other entertainment options. Now, thanks to enhanced international connectivity the number of foreign arrivals is growing and new direct flights into European hub airports will only boost that demand.


Summary:

  • Las Vegas McCarran International is the eighth largest airport  in the USA and 27th in the world and gateway to the resort city, famed for its vibrant nightlife;
  • McCarran International Airport has now seen seven consecutive years of annual traffic growth; passenger numbers reached record levels in 2017 and could pass 50mppa this year;
  • Air connectivity has historically been dominated by domestic flights, but increasing international connectivity is opening door to higher overseas spenders;
  • The latest new arrival is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines which will inaugurate an Amsterdam – Las Vegas service in Jun-2019.

Las Vegas is currently connected to 133 non-stop passenger destinations, but more than eight in ten (84.9%) of those markets are within the US and account for more than 92% of the system capacity on offer at McCarran International Airport. The data, based on CAPA – Centre for Aviation analysis of OAG schedules for the current week, shows that just 20 international destinations are being served from Las Vegas and just nine outside of the Americas. These comprise links to Beijing, China; and Seoul, South Korea; in Asia and the European destinations of Cologne/Bonn, Frankfurt and Munich in Germany; and Glasgow, London Gatwick, London Heathrow and Manchester in the United Kingdom.

CHART – McCarran International Airport has now seen seven consecutive years of annual traffic growth and passenger numbers have reached record levels following a dip in the final years of the previous decadeSource: The Blue Swan Daily and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport reports

McCarran International Airport has now seen seven consecutive years of annual traffic growth and passenger numbers have reached record levels. These had peaked at 47.7 million back in 2007, but declines in 2008, 2009 and 2010 saw levels decline by a sixth to 39.7 million in 2010. Since then growth has returned and last year, ten years on from its former passenger record, traffic levels hit a new high in 2017 and surpassed 48.5 million. With growth of +2.9% across the first seven months of 2018 it will be very close to hitting the 50 million annual passenger landmark this year.

Over the past five years international capacity (+21.3%) has been growing at more than three times the rate of domestic growth (+6.8%), albeit from a much lower base, buoyed by Las Vegas’ increasing appeal to foreign arrivals. Data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) show that new air connectivity helped boost arrivals from China (+11.7%) and South Korea (+16.6%) in 2017, versus the previous year, but the United Kingdom remains the largest intercontinental market, up +1.8% in 2017 and holding a 13.4% share of total international arrivals.

CHART – Canada and Mexico are the largest international source markets into Las Vegas, Europe remains a key market, but as is the case in most destinations, Asia is the key growth areaSource: The Blue Swan Daily and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority 

It is clear Las Vegas is a popular destination from the UK with flights from British Airways (BA), Norwegian and Thomas Cook Airlines serving markets across the country. But it also provides the only hub connection between Europe and Las Vegas, namely the BA link from London Heathrow a feeder network that supports connectivity from across Europe.

The big European flag carriers have tended to keep away from Las Vegas, perhaps due to its seasonality, or its strong leisure traffic flows. But, increasing demand means more are now considering the market, especially as MICE activity is supporting increasing business traffic. BA’s London Heathrow – Las Vegas operation has already been hit by Virgin Atlantic moving its longstanding London Gatwick – Las Vegas flight to Heathrow at the end of Mar-2019 and now KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has confirmed the launch of an Amsterdam – Las Vegas connection from Jun-2019.

KLM will launch a twice weekly service using 294-seat Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner equipment from 06-Jun-2019, increasing to three times weekly from 02-Jul-2019. It is likely to secure some of the additional connecting flows BA enjoys via London Heathrow thanks to its own extensive network and hub operation at Schiphol Airport as well as supporting local traffic out of the Netherlands (the 12th largest source market for international visitors to Las Vegas in 2017), Belgium and perhaps even parts of northern Germany. Its debut in Las Vegas, the carrier’s 18th direct North American destination, represents a key network decision.

Unlike many new routes, which are based on standalone profitability forecasts, this new flight has other major factors behind its launch, based around the significant capacity constraints that are starting to impact activity at KLM’s Amsterdam hub. Every slot needs to be used to its greatest potential and interestingly to facilitate the Las Vegas service KLM is actually cancelling flights to two existing destinations.

“In order to open Las Vegas as a new destination, changes had to be made to KLM’s network”, the carrier says, confirming plans to suspend services to the African cities of Freetown and Monrovia from 29-Mar-2019. “While the Freetown/Monrovia route launched in 2017 would have previously been given more time to grow in terms of performance, KLM is now compelled to deploy its fleet and slots differently”, it explains.

The announcement brings another major airline brand to Las Vegas and enhanced international connectivity with the SkyTeam global alliance. It may be less than 1,000 inbound seats per week, but with every international arrival spending on average USD448.56 on food and drink, USD282.73 on shopping and USD105.26 on shows and entertainment during their stays (based on LVCVA data for 2017), all significantly more than their North American counterparts, it will continue to support the economic rise of Las Vegas as a destination.