Just 5 miles (8 km) south of Las Vegas, Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) is spread over almost 3,000 acres of land in the state of Nevada. Owned by Clark County Commission, the airport has only been in existence since 1942 when construction began with the first flights not arriving until 1948.
On the smaller side with just two terminals and four runways, Harry Reid International is nonetheless a busy airport acting as an operational base for Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines.
Previously called McCarran Field and then McCarran International Airport, the name was changed to Harry Reid International Airport as recently as 2021 in honour of Nevada senator Harry Reid and after protests over senator Pat McCarran's racial and anti-Semitic utterances of previous years.
Despite the name change, Harry Reid airport retained the original IATA (International Air Transport Association) designation code LAS which is simply the first three letters in Las Vegas.
Sitting on precisely the same tract of land as today, the airfield was first named the Alamo Airport before becoming McCarran Field in honour of Pat McCarran, a somewhat controversial Nevada senator. With the ever increasing popularity of Las Vegas as a tourist destination, McCarran Field was handling more than 1.5 million passengers a year during the sixties with this number doubling in the following decade.
More than $300 million was spent in the eighties in upgrading facilities at the airport which included:
In 2007 a new remote parking facility with space for 5,000 vehicles was added which is linked to the terminal buildings by shuttle bus services.
A small airport with just two terminals, Harry Reid Airport has a total of 108 gates spread over five concourses. Strangely, although there are only two terminals these are designated Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 due to the fact that Terminal 2 (which catered to international flights) was demolished in 2016 having become redundant.
Terminal 1 has four concourses designated A, B, C and D which contain 94 gates. Concourse D is located in a separate building which shares facilities with Terminal 3.
Terminal 3 has only one concourse (Concourse E) with 14 gates and shares Concourse D with Terminal 1.
The two terminal buildings are connected via an automated people mover system, called the Tram, which runs on three separate lines:
At LAS most airlines are assigned specific terminals and concourses. Although these assignments are adhered to most of the time they are not set in stone as incoming flights can be redirected due to a number of reasons.
As things stand these are the current assignments:
Concourse A. Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines
Concourse B. Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines
Concourse C. Southwest Airlines
Concourse D. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines
Concourse D and E. International and domestic flights alternate between Concourses D and E with some of the most notable airlines being: Air Canada, AeroMexico, Sun Country, Frontier, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines.
The D gates on Concourse D can be accessed via an automated transit system which is located on Level 0 of Terminal 3.
Anyone arriving in the United States, apart from U.S. citizens and residents, require either an ESTA approved passport or a suitable U.S. Visa. Both of these are a form of validation and permission to enter the U.S. and arriving without one or the other will result in possible detention and expulsion.
The ESTA, Electronic System for Travel Authorization, is reserved for citizens of countries who partake in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program or VWP. These are countries that have a reciprocal agreement with U.S. authorities in order to facilitate movement between America and countries on the VWP list.
Citizens of the following countries are eligible for an ESTA, which is relatively simple to obtain:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Malta, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom
A U.S. Visa is not as easy to acquire as there are a number of steps that must be taken in the visa application process. Having submitted a visa application form, and passed the subsequent background checks, an applicant must personally attend an interview with a U.S. embassy representative and answer a number of personal and detailed questions. Assuming all paperwork is in order and the embassy official is satisfied with an applicant's answers a visitor's visa will be granted but this is not always a simple or fast procedure.
In addition, while a VWP citizen with an ESTA can proceed through customs and border security by merely scanning a passport, a visa holder must deal directly with the security agent on duty which often entails a long wait in a queue.
The vast majority of international visitors arriving at LAS are there for one reason and one reason only: Las Vegas. There is no rail service from the gambling heart of the city to the airport but there are a number of other ways of making the short eight-mile trip.
RTC Southern Nevada public bus service route 108 runs from Las Vegas to Terminal 1 (Level 0) and Terminal 3 (Level 2) at LAS.
A number of inter-city shuttles operate from the airport not just to Las Vegas but also to other destinations such as Laughlin, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City, Cedar City and Fort Mohave.
Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps can be used at LAS with pick-up points on Level 2 of Terminal 1 and at Terminal 3's valet parking area.
Taxi stands are located east of the baggage claim area of Terminal 1 and at Level 0 in Terminal 3.
Travelers are well catered for at LAS as taxis are usually plentiful and buses are regular and dependable. Journey time to Las Vegas and the Strip will vary depending on the precise pick-up or drop-off point but most journeys can be completed in around twenty minutes.