It is so stunningly vulgar, so tasteless, that one would think that the popularity of Las Vegas would be undiminished. But the tapes tell a different tale: Passenger traffic at the main airport there, McCarran International, fell a precipitous 14.7% in November. McCarran saw an across-the-board drop on major and minor domestic airlines, and even Southwest, the largest carrier at the airport, suffered a 10% decline in November, year over year. The decline was steep enough to prompt Southwest to offer a short-term sale on flights to and from Las Vegas. A 31% plunge in US Airways passenger boardings led the parade of bad news.
The decline at what had been one of the nation's fastest growing airport mirrors a weakening economy but also suggests serious troubles for gambling and hospitality, an industry that had held itself out as a one able to withstand wider economic trends.
The city, which depends on mix of business travelers going to serious meetings (sure, pipe-fitters) and on serious gamblers, has tried reinventing itself, at one point calling itself a family resort for good, clean fun and more recently trying to lure adults with the theme that 'what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.' Unfortunately, fewer are fewer are staying in Vegas. And so, McCarran's traffic has sagged over the last 13 months. The recent declines, along with an anticipated 15% drop in December activity (based on schedules), suggest that for airlines at least, this gambling resort is no safe bet.