Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Las Vegas airport terminal adds flash

Courtesy of Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

The new terminal at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas opens Wednesday.

By Harriet Baskas, msnbc.com contributor

The newest, shiniest, big thing in Las Vegas isn?t a hotel-casino or another Cirque de Soleil show.?It's "T3" -- the $2.4 billion Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport.?

Sixteen international carriers will move their flights to T3 on Wednesday. Five domestic carriers (Alaska, Frontier, JetBlue, Sun Country and Virgin America) will begin service out of T3 on July 31. United and Hawaiian will begin operating out of T3 in late August.

The 14-gate terminal, the largest modern public works project in Nevada, is expected to serve more than 11.3 million passengers annually. The terminal includes many high-tech features and other amenities designed to increase efficiency and help make what officials consider to be the front door to the city as exciting as the city itself. ?

?The visitor experience in Terminal 3 will be unlike any other in the country,? said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. ?From the moment passengers step out of the plane, they will immediately have a unique sense of place and receive the type of Las Vegas welcome we want them to receive.?

Setting the tone will be neon signs emulating the iconic ?Welcome to Las Vegas? sign that greets travelers on Las Vegas Boulevard, large-scale artwork and new technology that allows airlines to invite passengers to weigh, pay for and tag their own bags at more than 200 self-service kiosks and to scan their own boarding passes and self-board at the gates.

?We are unaware of any other large U.S. airport that utilizes the various technologies McCarran has deployed,? said Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County deputy director of aviation. Over the years, she added, McCarran has also been among the first airports in the country to introduce amenities such as free wireless Internet access, radio frequency identification tags for checked luggage and other technology.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Sin City is a major entertainment center and business travel destination, known for its carefully cultivated image, gambling and nightlife.

New technology will make it easy to get around T3. Flight, baggage and wayfinding information are displayed on more than 900 large-screen digital signs. And, at the gates, digital signage on pylons display high-resolution photos of iconic attractions passengers might see at their flight?s destination.

Like the rest of airport, T3 has complimentary wireless service, but it also offers travelers 16 new shops and restaurants, plenty of power outlets for recharging gadgets, historical photographs and artwork that includes a sculpture of two airplanes made out of 3,000 smaller sculptures of butterflies suspended on fine wires. ??

And for those visitors who want to get right down to business upon arrival ? or who want to continue gambling until they absolutely must leave for home ? there are almost 300 slot machines scattered throughout McCarran International Airport?s new terminal.

?We simply hope our customers will remember the good times they had while in Las Vegas, and leave McCarran with nothing but the good impressions that stem from a seamless travel experience at the airport,? said Vassiliadis.

Find more by Harriet Baskas on StuckatTheAirport.com and follow her on Twitter.?

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