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Las Vegas airport keeps growing; reliever airport considered

Flight status board at Harry Reid International Airport
John Locher/AP
Flight status board at Harry Reid International Airport

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Experts say growth at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas is on a trajectory to reach its capacity of between 63 million and 65 million annual passengers by around 2030.

Clark County Department of Aviation Director Rosemary Vassiliadis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the airport is expected to release 2022 passenger totals soon and it’s likely to be close to 53 million, the highest level ever.

Vassiliadis also said the earliest a new reliever airport south of Las Vegas in the Ivanpah Valley could be operational is 2037.

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What happens in those seven years between 2030 and 2037?

The Review-Journal reports that nobody wants to speculate because so many things could change between now and then.

The best Vassiliadis and her airport team can do is shepherd the Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport plan along and work with dozens of stakeholders — federal and state government agencies, regional transportation leaders, water and utility companies among them — to keep the reliever airport on track to open.

In the meantime, that means finding solutions to airport logjams at a time when Reid airport and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority are trying to increase the number of flights to Las Vegas to boost the tourism economy.

“In having our consultants work on all of that, we know if everything goes perfectly, with our rate of sustainable growth, we feel that we’re going to start getting hit with delays on the airfield by the end of 2029 or maybe by 2030,” Vassiliadis told the Review-Journal. “Unfortunately, it means painful years for airlines and that we need a second commercial airport.”

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The airport grew into the capacity problem as a result of being so successful.

Aviation consultants say the Las Vegas airport has rebounded from COVID-19 pandemic restraints faster than any airport in the country.

Three new airlines started or announced they would be flying into Las Vegas last year, adding a combined 310,000 seats into the market annually.

Airlines already serving Las Vegas added nonstop service to 36 markets in 2022, including 17 new domestic markets.