Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

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McCarran International Airport - One of the Best (and busiest)!

Jul 26, 2003 (Updated Dec 23, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Cleanliness, dining/shopping, and newer facilities.

Cons:Extremely busy at times with long waits at ticket counters and security checkpoints.

The Bottom Line: One of the best and busiest airports in the world.


Well, since I've lived in Las Vegas for the past 31 years (since birth that is), I've obviously taken my fair share of flights in/out of McCarran Airport (MCN). And MCN has definitely grown in leaps and bounds to keep up with the tremendous growth in the Las Vegas Valley.

I can remember back in the days going to the Charter Terminal (now known as Terminal 2) to fly on PSA. Or, when I saw Bob Hope talking on a pay phone at the A gates and got his autograph. Or how about the time when I was at the old Scenic Airlines terminal (located on the other side of the MCN airport runways) and saw both James Brown and then Danny Glover (who was just coming back from filming the movie, Grand Canyon). Anyhow, you get the picture......fond memories.



So, what exactly does MCN airport have to offer? Let's see:

MCN airport has two terminals:

TERMINAL 1

Terminal 1 is where the bulk of the passengers will fly in/out of when traveling to Las Vegas. The A/B gates were the first two original gates at MCN. Then the C gates were added later for Southwest Airlines, and then finally the D gates were added thereafter to accommodate the additional flight loads from more and more airlines that were servicing Las Vegas. Terminal 1 has been remodeled throughout the years and is a true modern airport that for the most part looks newer than most airports around the country (i.e. JFK, LAX, etc.)


Terminal 1 - Parking
Parking at Terminal 1 is relatively easy. You just need to make sure that you follow the appropriate signs for the parking that you are looking for:

- Short-Term (YELLOW triangles): 25 cents per 10 minutes (coin-operated and yes, there are change machines available in the parking area) I usually prefer to park in the short-term parking that is located right next to the Passenger Pick-up area as it is a short walk to baggage claim.

- Long-Term (GREEN triangles): $3.00 for the first hour/$1.00 for each additional hour/daily rates are at $10 per day

- Valet Parking (RED triangles): $4.00 minimum/$1.00 for each additional hour/daily rates are at $14 per day

- Oversize/Uncovered Parking (Blue triangles): For just uncovered parking ($2.00 for the first hour/$2.00 for each additional hour/daily rates are at $12 per day), and for oversize parking (vehicles over 40' in length - $6.00 for the first hour/$3.00 for each additional hour/daily rates are at $18.00 per day)

For long-term, valet, and oversize/uncovered parking you can pay with either cash or a credit card (VISA, MC, Discover, AMEX, and Diners Club).

Also, as compared with other major airports in the country, there are only a couple of park/fly locations near the MCN airport.


Terminal 1 - Airlines
The airlines that are serviced by Terminal 1 are the following (with their gate locations):

A Gates*
- Alaska
- Champion Air
- Continental
- Frontier
- JetBlue Airways
- US Airways

B Gates*
- Allegiant Air
- America West

C Gates**
- Aloha
- Southwest

D Gates***
- AirTran
- American
- Delta
- Midwest Airlines
- Northwest
- Song
- Spirit
- Sun Country
- United/United Express

The ticket counters for all of these airlines are located on Level 1 of Terminal 1, then you'll need to take either an elevator or escalator to get to the gates. The security checkpoints for the A/B Gates are located just above the ticket counter area, and the security checkpoints for the C/D Gates are further west and essentially above the south baggage claim area.

As in all major airports nowadays, the security checkpoint process can be a long wait, so be prepared. I haven't noticed anything different with the security checks at MCN compared to others especially since all airports are under federal guidelines for security and screening. (Although it still bothers me that on our last flight out of MCN, that they had insisted that they use the wand metal detector on my 3 1/2 year old son even though the walk-thru metal detector didn't go off).



*NOTE: Both the A and B Gates use the same security checkpoint area, so if you are flying during a busy part of the day or week, you can expect long lines there.

**NOTE: To get to the C Gates, you'll need to take a short tram after going through the security checkpoint. So, you'll need to get to the airport a little bit earlier especially since these are the gates for Southwest Airlines, THE busiest airline at MCN.

***NOTE: To get to the D Gates, you'll need to take a much longer tram after going through the security checkpoint. Then after getting off of the tram, you have a little trek to actually get to your gate, so be sure to arrive a little bit earlier than usual.


Terminal 1 - Baggage Claim

The North/South Baggage Claim areas are on Level 1 at the far eastern portion of Terminal 1. It is in the Baggage Claim area where you'll find the hotel check-in desks, the rental car offices, the taxicab waiting areas and the shuttle/limosine pickup areas.

NOTE: After you've picked up your baggage from baggage claim, if you have a lot of bags, they'll usually ask to check to see if you have all of the appropriate baggage claim checks for your bags (before 9/11 they used to check every single bag for the appropriate baggage claim check) before you can leave the baggage claim area.

As far as the rental cars are concerned, all of the companies have their cars off of the MCN premises. So, you'll have to get on a shuttle to get to your car (sorry Hertz Club Gold members). The following rental car companies service the MCN airport:

- Avis
- Budget
- Enterprise
- Dollar
- Hertz
- Alamo/National
- Payless
- Sav-mor
- Thrifty.


Terminal 1 - Services
Terminal 1 has a fair amount of services available to the traveler:

Airline Club
America West offers a club room for it's airline club members. This is located on Level 2 just outside of the security checkpoint area for the A/B Gates.

Banking
There is a full-service Wells Fargo bank near the security checkpoint area for the A/B Gates. There are also other ATM machines located throughout the terminal.

Fitness Center
Yep, you can still get in a workout while you're at the airport by going to the 24 Hour Fitness on Level 2 above the north Baggage Claim. This 24 Hour Fitness location is a "Fitness" club (short for....no pool) and offers a cardio workout area, weight equipment, locker room and shower, massage, pro shop, sauna and personal training. Call (702) 261-3971 for more information.

Gambling
Of course, the MCN airport in Las Vegas, so you'll have plenty opportunities to put some last minute coins into the slot machines before you leave. And yes, you can still play Megabucks or Wheel of Fortune for some serious cash, but I'm sure that the odds of hitting a big jackpot at MCN are a lot higher than in the casinos!

Hotel Check-in
You can check into the following hotels while still at the MCN airport: MGM Grand, New York New York, Bally's, Caesars Palace, Flamingo Hilton, and Paris. It is open from 9am to 11pm daily and is located on Level 1 of the South Baggage Claim.

Kids Play Area
This is an unsupervised Kids Play Area at the D Gates with an interactive mini-control tower and mock jet engine.

Post Office
Need to send a postcard or mail out a credit card payment? Well, you have a full service US Post Office on Level 2 just about the north Baggage Claim area. There are also a Federal Express and UPS drop boxes next to the post office.

Smoking
MCN airport is a non-smoking facility, yes! But for those of you who must partake in a last minute drag of that cigarette, there are several smoking areas located throughout the terminal. These areas are enclosed to minimize the amount of second hand smoke outside of the smoking area. There are usually slot machines in these smoking areas as well.


Terminal 1 - Dining
There are plenty of dining options to choose from at MCN:

A/B Gates
Big Apple Bagels, Budweiser Brewhouse, Burger King, Cheers Bar & Grill*, Cinnabon, Fox Sports Sky Box, Hot Dog City, Mrs. Fields, Pizza Hut Express, Starbucks Coffee, Taco Bell, TCBY Treats and Vienna Beef

*The Cheers Bar & Grill is a great spot if you have a long wait or a layover for your next flight. The only thing is that since there isn't a real kitchen on the premises, all of the food is pre-made and then microwaved for you. We found this out on one early flight that we were going out on, for as we had arrived at the airport early and swiftly went through the security checkpoint, we found that we had some time to kill and some starving stomachs. So, we had ordered breakfast at Cheers which we had later observed was being nuked in a microwave at the side of the bar. At the very least, they should hide the microwave in the back and pretend that they actually cook the food there.

C Gates
Burger King, Cinnabon, Cocktail Lounge, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Home Turf Sports Grill, Hot Dog City, Pizza Hut Express, Samuel Adams Bar, Snack Bar, Subway and TCBY Treats

D Gates
Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Burger King, Cinnabon, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, Harlon's BBQ & Country Breakfast, Home Turf Sports Bar, Illy Espresso, Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom, Juice Express, Mrs. Fields, Pizza Hut Express, Port of Subs, Prickly Pear Cafe, Quizon's Subs, Ruby's Dinette and TCBY Treats

Esplanade
Don Alejandro's Texan Grill, Las Vegas Autoraceway Food & Spirits and Starbucks Coffee


Terminal 1 - Shopping
Need that last minute souvenir or something for the plane? Well, MCN has quite a few options:

A/B Gates
Ethel M. Chocolates, Brookstone, Fossil, I Can't Believe it's made in Nevada, Kids Korner II, Las Vegas Fruits & Nuts, LIDS, Marshall Rousso, News & Gifts, Sunglass Cache', T-Shirts Ltd, Tax Free Duty Free, The Candy Shoppe and WH Smith News & Gifts

C Gates
Books.CO, Ethel M. Chocolates, Las Vegas Fruits & Nuts, News & Gifts, T-Shirts Ltd, The Writer's Edge, and WH Smith News & Gifts

D Gates
Altitunes, Harrah's Las Vegas, Inmotion Pictures, Intrigue, Jet Coyote Western Store, Landing Gear, Las Vegas Fruits & Nuts, Las Vegas Gaming Supply, Magnet Mania, Nevada Market, Perfumania, Sunglass Hut International, The Body Shop, The Candy Shoppe, The Musuem Company, Waterstone's Booksellers, WH Smith Area 51 and WH Smith News & Gifts

Esplanade
Bellagio Hotel Gift Shop, Brighton Collectibles, Caesars Exclusively, Cigars of the World, Gallery of Collectibles, Golden Nugget Hotel Gift Shop, L'Oreal Paris, Marshall Rousso, MGM Grand Hotel Gift Shop, Mirage Hotel Gift Shop, PGA Tour Shop, Simply Unique Gifts, T-Shirts Ltd, The Candy Shoppe, Treasure Island Hotel Gift Shop, Waterstone's Booksellers and WH Smith News & Gifts



TERMINAL 2

Terminal 2 was originally added as the charter terminal for the MCN airport, but now it services all of the international and some overseas/charter flights. Obviously, the ticket counter and baggage claim areas are much smaller as Terminal 1, but yet still adequate enough for the amount of traffic that flows through Terminal 2.

It seems as if Terminal 2 is the no-frills terminal as the decor is plain, and the amount of dining/shopping options are limited. Although, Terminal 2 does have one service that Terminal 1 does not.......U.S. Customs (LOL).

One drawback to Terminal 2 is that if you are in either Terminal 1 or 2 and want to get to the other, it is a LONG walk. This might not be too bad for some, but hey, Las Vegas is all about convenience not inconvenience.


Terminal 2 - Airlines
The airlines that are serviced by Terminal 2 are the following:

- Aero Mexico
- Air Canada
- AirTransat
- Allegro Air
- American Trans Air
- Aviacsa
- Hawaiian
- Japan Airlines
- Mexicana
- Omni Air International
- Sky Service
- Virgin Atlantic Airways
- WestJet


Terminal 2 - Dining/Shopping
Although there aren't as many options as in Terminal 1, you still have a few choices on where to eat and shop.

Dining: Burger King, Cinnabon, Cocktails, Hot Dog City, Pizza Hut Express and TCBY Treats.

Shopping: Ethel M. Chocolates, Liberty Duty Free, News Travels, PGA Tour Shop, Sparkle Plenty and T-Shirts Ltd.



WIFI

Update August 2004 - MCN now offers FREE Wi-Fi connection through it's Aruba Networks Portal. I've noticed this while going on a few Alaska flights out of the A Gates. All you have to do once you open your browser is to enter in your e-mail address, and you're good to surf the internet on your laptop. I don't know if this is available at all gates, but it's great to have while you are waiting to get onto your flight!



OVERALL
Overall, I think that the McCarran International Airport is one of the best airports out there. It is kept clean and offers a wide variety of services, shopping and dining for the busy traveler.

One thing to keep in mind though is that it was the 7th busiest airport in North America and 12th in the world. This is busier than the airports in Seattle, Houston, San Francisco, Hong Kong, London (Gatwick), New York (JFK), Rome and Tokyo. So, when it's busy at MCN, it's extremely busy and the lines at the ticket counters (especially Southwest) and security checkpoints can be rather large.

For more information, go to the MCN website at:

http://www.mccarran.com


Recommend this product? Yes


Best Time to Travel Here: Anytime

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