McCarran International Airport was thrilled on Friday afternoon when crowds of travelers arrived in Las Vegas on what was expected to be a busy weekend.
Among the many populating Terminal 1 baggage claim were groups of college sports teams for women, families, and groups of friends.
McCarran spokesman Joe Rajchel said passenger traffic has increased steadily over the past month and that trend is expected to continue as capacity limits increase and more people get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Wearing the mask was followed by the majority of travelers with social distancing who was tossed out the window for a moment as travelers pulled their bags from the various roundabouts.
The crowd didn’t last long, however, as most were in a hurry to exit the airport and get to their destination to start the weekend.
For some, this meant grabbing a shot of booze from a March Madness-themed pop-up bar set up in Terminal 1 baggage claim for the weekend.
With March Madness, spring break, and St. Patrick’s Day weekend coming together, some tourists have said they are visiting for the same reasons that attract many on weekends.
John Sokolik from Omaha, Nebraska, was in town to celebrate his friend’s 50th birthday. He was part of a group of about a dozen who had traveled from different parts of the country to celebrate his friend’s birthday.
“For me it was one last second, but he (friend) planned it for a while,” said Sokolik. “I wasn’t going to come, but at the last second I decided to come.”
Sokolik said his flight from Nebraska was full, so he expected McCarran to be too. Although the airport was full, Sokolik, who was in Las Vegas a few times before COVID, said it wasn’t as full as on his other trips.
Sokolik said he was familiar with applicable coronavirus regulations and was fully vaccinated so he was not worried about the virus.
“I’m fully vaccinated,” he said. “So I can go around and lick doorknobs if I want.”
The birthday group lives at the Bellagio and is ready for a good time whether there are regulations or not.
“COVID will change the face of Vegas just like the rest of the world has,” he said. “So we just have to wait and see how it looks. I was just hoping the weather would get a little warmer than what it is, but that’s about it. “
Contact Mick Akers at [email protected] or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.