McCarran International Airport

Owned by the Clark County Commission, KLAS is the main government airport for public use in the Las Vegas Valley. The airport is operated by the Clark County Department of Aviation.

Airport history

Las Vegas’ first airport was Anderson Field, which opened in November 1920. Its name then changed in 1925 to Rockwell Field, after being bought by the Rockwell brothers, and in April 1926 Western Air Express (WAE) began carrying mail (and eventually passengers). When the brothers sold Rockwell Field and the new owner canceled WAE's lease, the airline had to find another airport to operate from. Local businessman P. A. Simon had built an airfield northeast of the city (now Nellis Air Force Base). In 1929, WAE moved to what is now known as Nellis Air Force Base, purchasing the field a short time later. When World War II started, WAE was pressured to sell the airport. Nevada Senator Pat McCarran helped obtain federal funding for the city to buy the field and build a terminal, and also aided in establishing a gunnery school by the United States Army Air Corps at the location. The airport was then named McCarran Field in 1941, after the senator. A third airfield, Alamo Field, was established in 1942 south of Las Vegas, where McCarran Airport currently sits. The Army sought to open a base at the site of McCarran Field, so Clark County purchased Alamo Field to function as its airline airport. Alamo Field then became the new McCarran Field on December 19, 1948. In the meantime, the Army reopened its base in 1949 at the original site of McCarran Field and renamed it Nellis Air Force Base in 1950. McCarran Field served over 35,000 passengers in its first year of operation. During the huge growth of the Las Vegas casino industry in the 1950s, McCarran received a lot of traffic. In 1959 alone, the airport serviced 959,603 passengers. The initial jet flights were conducted on United 720s in September 1960. Airport officials began planning a new passenger terminal on Paradise Road, inspired by the TWA Flight Center in Manhattan. The terminal was up and running on March 15, 1963. Five year later, the airport was renamed McCarran International Airport. From 1970 – 1974, construction on gates A and B took place. After the airline industry was deregulated in 1978, the number of airlines at McCarran increased from seven to fourteen, with new airlines such as American, Braniff, and Continental coming on board. In response to this, the county launched McCarran 2000, an expansion plan that listed projects to be undertaken into the year 2000. In the mid 80s, an expanded baggage claim facility, an esplanade, and a parking garage opened to the public, followed in 1987 by the C Gates and the first line of the people mover system. The Charter/International Terminal, later renamed Terminal 2, as well as a nine-story parking garage and a tunnel which connected the Las Vegas Beltway to the airport, opened in December 1991. In June 1998, the southwest and southeast wings of the D Gates opened. During the late 1990s, the airport’s main focus was on gaining foreign airlines. In 1997, the airport became the first airport in the United States to introduce Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE), which allowed for multiple airlines to share the use of ticket counters and gates. McCarran furthered its commitment to the common use strategy in 2003 with the addition of the SpeedCheck system, introducing Common-Use Self-Service (CUSS) kiosks. The kiosks enabled travelers to check-in and print boarding passes themselves for various airlines. In January 2005, complimentary Wi-Fi became available in the terminals for passengers. The northeast wing of the D Gates opened in April 2005, and so did a 160-foot air traffic control tower in the middle of the concourse. The expansion had been put on hold following the events of September 11th, but started back up amid a surge in passenger traffic. In September 2008, the D Gate’s northwest wing was finished, marking the completion of the 44-gate concourse. In May 2011, work on a new air traffic control tower began, taking the place of the one of that opened in 1983. In the late 1990s, the county decided to build a second airport for Las Vegas, to be located 30 miles in the Ivanpah Valley, however, in June 2010 the project was put on hold. Eight years later, the county re-initiated planning for the new airport. Terminal 3 opened to the public on June 27, 2012 in order to accommodate the rising passenger traffic, costing $2.4 billion. It provided addiitional international gates and a larger U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility. Next up, eight domestic gates were turned into seven “swing” gates (capable of fielding domestic and international flyers) near Concourse E, in the D Gates (D19 - 26) at a cost of $51 million. The entire project was finished in June of 2017. Additionally, Terminal 1 was renovated, including new ticket counters, upgraded flooring, and refurbished restrooms. The price tag on this was $30 million. On February 16, 2021, the Clark County Commission voted unanimously to rename the airport Harry Reid International Airport.

Airport location

KLAS is in Paradise, Nevada, approximately five miles south of Downtown Las Vegas and two miles from the Las Vegas Strip. 

Airport facts

● With almost 500 daily commercial flights departing to 150 cities globally, McCarran is 8th in the nation in passenger volume. 

● McCarran International Airport has 110 gates at two separate terminal buildings, each with its own parking garage, ticketing/check-in area, baggage claim, and shopping and dining options.

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