A lift for international tourism

Merger between American Airlines and US Airways could be good for Las Vegas

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

If you merge one company named American with another named US, you might expect something really big for the United States.

But for Las Vegas, the imminent merger between American Airlines and US Airways likely will have more international implications than domestic ones.

Aviation experts say Las Vegas isn’t likely to lose many flights when the carriers merge because there aren’t route overlaps. Everything the airlines do at McCarran International Airport is hub flying — shuttling passengers from Las Vegas to a primary airport where they then transfer them to destination flights.

American operates an average 26 flights a day with nonstop routes to and from Dallas-Fort Worth International, Miami International, Chicago’s O’Hare International, New York’s John F. Kennedy International and Los Angeles International. US Airways has an average of 18 flights a day to and from Phoenix, Philadelphia, Charlotte, N.C., and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Damon Hylton, vice president of Seabury APG, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s air service consultant, said that when the merger is complete, American will be the second-busiest operator at McCarran behind Southwest Airlines, dislodging Delta Air Lines from the spot.

Hylton predicts American’s domestic agenda will maintain the status quo. But its international alliances could change.

He believes American will maintain its airline alliances with British Airways, Air Berlin, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas (an Australian operator) and LAN (a major South American carrier). Gone will be US Airways’ affiliation with United Airlines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

“We already have British Airways doing extremely well with its service to Heathrow and now Gatwick (in London),” Hylton said. “A stronger (alliance) can only help efforts with international carriers.”

For the past two years, McCarran has been the fastest-growing U.S. airport for international arrivals.

“That has caught the attention of airlines around the world, including the large U.S. carriers,” Hylton said. “The strong push by the LVCVA in funding air service development efforts and partnering with McCarran is a key element in reaching their long-term goal of 30 percent of visitors coming from international.”

The relocation of ticket counters and gates at McCarran should be relatively painless but could lead to some big-ticket musical chairs.

American uses the D gates, while US Airways uses B. Clark County Aviation Department Director Randall Walker said it’s likely that the new American would shift to D.

Maurice Gallagher, CEO of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, said his airline is considering a move to the B terminal. The company currently operates out of D.

Such a move would allow Spirit Airlines, the fastest-growing domestic carrier at McCarran, to grow even more. Both Spirit and Allegiant are adding to their fleets.

The bottom line: Typically a bad thing for consumers, this merger could be good for Las Vegas.

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