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Las Vegas: McCarran airport's new terminal to open next week

June 20, 2012|By Jay Jones | This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
(McCarran International…)

After 20 years of planning and five years of construction, Las VegasMcCarran International Airport will open a new terminal next Wednesday.

Whether passengers are delighted or dismayed may depend on how well they embrace new technology.

Travelers will discover that the new $2.4-billion facility looks like many European airports. Gone are the fixed-in-place ticket counters with large signage for each airline. They’re replaced by overhead monitors displaying the various airlines’ logos, allowing for changes based on demand.

Passengers who don’t like standing in line will appreciate the electronic kiosks that spit out boarding passes.

They also have a seldom-seen new feature: self-tagging for baggage. Customers enter their flight details on a touch screen and place their checked bag on a scale. After the appropriate charges are paid with a credit or debit card, a baggage tag will be printed.

In a fleeting interaction with a human, the passenger will then hand the tagged bag to an airline employee, who will do the heavy lifting onto the conveyor belt.

It’s then off to the gate, where human contact can again be avoided. New machines will allow people to scan their own boarding passes (or their smartphones), after which a turnstile will unlock.

If the new technology sounds a bit daunting, some respite can be found in the abundant public art displayed throughout Terminal 3. Huge paintings and photographs, plus sculptures, are almost always within sight.

Sixteen international and seven domestic carriers will eventually use the new gates. JetBlue’s flights from its Southern California destinations will arrive and depart from the so-called T3 beginning July 31. United’s operations will move to the new terminal Aug. 22.

Because the passenger volume at McCarran’s existing Terminal 1 will be reduced by about 12 million people a year, airport officials expect the long lines for taxis to shrink.

The current international facility, Terminal 2, is scheduled to be demolished.

For the record, 11:57 a.m. June 20: A prior version of this post incorrectly said Terminal 3 would open Monday. It opens Wednesday, June 27.

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