Familiar with the Las Vegas airport?
January 2, 2008 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Familiar with the Las Vegas airport? I need some practical advice for choosing my flight/airline.

I'm flying to Phoenix from New York in a few weeks but I rerouted my flight out there to go through Vegas to see friends who are celebrating a bachelor party. I still need to get to Phoenix that same night for a rehearsal dinner. Time is of the essence since I arrive in Vegas at 9:50am. I can fly to Phoenix with either US Air or Southwest and would like your opinion on (1) whether it will take me less time to get to the gate with one or the other (2) how much time is enough for arriving at the airport (officially they say 2 hours which seems like an awful lot) and (3) whether you'd guess one of the airlines is more reliable than the other or (4) if you can think of anything else relevant to the decision. US Air takes off at 4:11 and arrives at 6:35 whereas Southwest leaves at 4 and arrives at 6:10pm. They cost the same. I've ruled out later flights as too late. THANKS!
posted by tonci to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
US is the worst of all airlines in terms of reliability - both in on-time performance and baggage lost. if you can opt for southwest, take them.
posted by krautland at 3:13 PM on January 2, 2008

From not-too-recent (2003) memory, the big choke point at McCarran is security: it's another one of those airports where the architecture isn't able to cope with post-2001 changes. From more recent reviews, that hasn't changed. I'd absolutely say you should get there a couple of hours before departure, and that's not a huge inconvenience given how close to the main Strip hotels it is.

Once you're past security, the main terminal is fairly compact -- though the C and D gates are a bit of a trek away.
posted by holgate at 3:26 PM on January 2, 2008

I don't have any special knowledge of McCarran airport (althoough I've been there a number of times), but my recent experiences with US Air have been of the "I would have gotten there sooner if I had driven" variety, so I would avoid them if at all possible.

As far as your "How early do I need to get there" question, it depends on whether you are checking baggage, and on what day of the week you are traveling. If you're trying to get out of Vegas on a Sunday afternoon (along with every weekend gambler in the western half of the United States) and you're checking bags, two hours isn't unreasonable. If you're not checking bags and it's a Wednesday or something, 45 minutes to an hour is probably fine.
posted by dersins at 3:27 PM on January 2, 2008

Response by poster: thanks, these answers are all very helpful. I'll go with Southwest, and dersins, I wonder what your view is on arriving for a 6:35pm flight on a Saturday. I'd guess that it's more like like a Wednesday than a Sunday but that security is still going to be slow.
posted by tonci at 3:40 PM on January 2, 2008

Best answer: I got to vegas 6-7 times a year. Saturday will be much calmer than a typical Sunday. Get there 80 minutes ahead of time and you will make it.
posted by ill3 at 3:53 PM on January 2, 2008

The biggest issue with Vegas is DEFINITELY the security lines. Some of the worst in the nation, and even the airport workers I've met said that.

I would say the best way to save time is to use Southwest and DON'T CHECK ANY BAGS. Whatever you do, try to get everything stuff into carryons. Always better if you can check in and get your boarding pass through machines... if you wait in line and have to talk to people it'll really set you back timewise.

If you have to check bags though, depending on where your friends are staying, some hotels like the Venetian also have Speedcheck where they'll check you into the airport in advance, including your checked luggage. Plus, it looks like Southwest in Vegas also offers an off-site baggage check-in service for $20. So that could be handy too.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:12 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Vegas airport does have terrible lines at security. Everyone's advice upthread is good - take carry-ons only, check in online or at any offsite location if possible, and get there early. In my experience, leaving on a Saturday afternoon is less busy than Sunday evenings or Mondays, so you should be ok if you arrive 80-90 minutes ahead of flight time, but keep in mind that you will probably spend at least half an hour in security, if not more.

I'm going to Vegas again soon and the one thing I dread is leaving, due to the security crap.
posted by bedhead at 8:36 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

My friend and I went to Las Vegas for Labor Day and left the Tuesday after. We thought scheduling a 6AM flight would mean that we could show up only an hour ahead of time. The security lines were awful! At 5AM, it took us most of that hour to get through security, but we did and didn't even have to wait at the gate to board, because we got there just in time to hear our section being called. :) Since your flight it later in the morning, which would mean more travelers, I'd definitely get there at least an hour and a half ahead of time.

Also, Southwest has a pretty good reputation, and I like their reality show on the Bio channel.
posted by lychee at 10:54 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: great help everyone, thanks!!
posted by tonci at 7:04 AM on January 3, 2008

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