Terminal Three nearly ready for take-off at McCarran: Will relieve airport congestion

By NM Lorde

Fewer than two weeks remain, and the impressive 1.9 million square foot Terminal Three at McCarran International Airport will be open for business.

The $2.4 billion terminal boasts seven international gates, seven domestic gates, 32 curbside check-in systems, 130 inside the lobby and nearly 6,000 parking spaces spanning over eight levels. Flight operations begin June 27th, and with strong congestion at Terminal One, the opening couldn’t come at a better time.

“Terminal Three’s opening will relieve congestion during peak periods at Terminal One, whether that congestion occurs on the roadways, curbsides, the ticketing lobby or security checkpoints,” says Chris Jones, Public Affairs & Marketing Manager for McCarran. “Currently, more than 90 percent of McCarran’s passengers go through Terminal One. With T3, we will be able to balance out those peaks thanks to the flexibility of having two terminals, each capable of handling a large volume of travelers.”

Visitors will discover improved amenities, including more sit-down restaurants and stores (everything from Carl’s Jr. and Burger King to a luxurious, on-demand express spa service) as well as enhanced technology.

“T3 will have kiosks that let passengers tag their own baggage and special readers at the gates that allow for self-boarding. There will be free Wi-Fi – as is currently offered at McCarran – plus numerous power plugs to recharge electronic devices,” says Jones. “Even the gate podiums are modern, using video screens to show passengers which flight is at a gate – as well as displaying video images of the city to which that plane is headed, as well as the current weather conditions there.”

As for the $2.4 billion price tag, it is currently the largest and most expensive capital improvement project in the airport’s history. Jones says the question of funding a project of this expense was originally addressed by the Board of County Commissioners back in July 2008.

“They could have put the project on hold and risked that McCarran would not have had capacity to meet demand once the economy recovered,” says Jones, who adds that Terminal Three will be paid for entirely with airport revenue, not taxpayer dollars. “The other choice was to keep building, ensuring that McCarran would be prepared when the economy bounced back and travel inevitably grew. The commissioners chose the latter course, stating it would be ‘a disservice to this community’ if T3’s summer 2012 opening were delayed.”

“Considering that traffic at McCarran has risen each month since January 2011 and Terminal Three’s international gates will be filled during peak hours as soon as June 28, it seems the commission’s choice to press forward was a prudent one,” adds Jones.

McCarran is the gateway for nearly half of Las Vegas’ approximately 40 million annual tourists (with a historic peak of nearly 48 million passengers in 2007). Terminal Three will now enable McCarran to handle approximately 53 million passengers per year.

“The extra space will allow for more people than we have seen before,” says Jones, “but how soon we reach that peak will be determined by the economy and airlines’ schedules, neither of which an airport can control.” For a more in-depth look at the new Terminal Three, please visit www.mccarran.com.

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