McCarran International Airport
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McCarran International Airport

McCarran International Airport (LAS) is the country's sixth busiest airport. Globally, LAS is the 19th busiest airport with close to 40 million passengers per year. Only a few minutes drive from the famous strip, the airport serves Nevada, Clark County and Las Vegas. It's owned by Clark County, operated by the Clark County Department of Aviation and serves as a major hub for Great Lakes Airlines, a regional airline operating domestic, charter and scheduled services.

Being in the Vegas area definitely puts McCarran Airport in a unique position. There are over 1,200 slot machines throughout their terminals. Of course, the flavor of Las Vegas can be found all over LAS. There are exciting restaurants, dining, shopping and even an aviation museum. There's exemplary transportation options, the best of which are cheap McCarran International Airport car rentals.

It was originally a dirt runway, a water well and a shack for what was called Western Air Express Airlines. The United States Army Air Corps planned to use the field long term for training flights. In 1941, the Army signed a lease with the City of Las Vegas to use the field. For some reason, by the following year, the city was still using it for commercial flights. That same year, the airport suffered two aircraft disasters, one of which included the loss of movie star Carole Lombard.

In 1948, Western Air Express was renamed McCarran Field after U.S. Senator Pat McCarran. A beloved local politician, he played a major role in the development of aviation across the country and wrote the Civil Aeronautics Act. In 1963, the city began its expansion of the airfield. The design was inspired by JFK's TWA Terminal.

LAS was the first to utilize SpeedCheck. These are kiosks that let customers obtain boarding passes without using an airline-specific center. They were also one of the first airports to employ RFID technology, implementing a baggage tracking system using radio frequencies.

By 2008, LAS had added almost 20 new gates.

The recession prompted a dramatic downturn in air travel. That prevented LAS from achieving the peak numbers it anticipated in 2007. The Next Generation Air Transportation System looks to update the current air traffic control system to a satellite based one. They hope to deploy a system that allows more flights per hour. That would definitely be beneficial to LAS achieving the passenger numbers that they're looking for.

Another project under consideration is an expansion of the Las Vegas Monorail. Right now it only connects the communities of Winchester and Paradise. The extension would create underground stations at Terminals 1 and 3. This plan is receiving heavy opposition from limousine and taxi services that imagine losing revenue if there were a less expensive mode for getting to and from the airport.

Just minutes outside one of the most colorful, exciting cities in the country, one could get off their flight, grab one of many cheap car rentals and be in the heart of the action in no time. LAS is a convenient and best bet for traveling in and out of Nevada.