Airport Nightmare: Flight Schedule Cutbacks

And what are they doing in Vegas in response to these cutbacks? Expanding the airport. Which is more than a bit surprising, considering that during the first four months of this year, money coming in from casinos took a sharp dip. Gaming revenues were down by 2.6 percent and room rates were down 4 percent. Even more interesting to me are the fly-in stats: Total passenger traffic this July was a little more than 3.9 million, compared to nearly 4.3 million in July of last year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the airlines are not thrilled about a proposal to expand McCarran -- a $1.8 billion expansion plan that Vegas officials are convinced is needed. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has called airports and expansions "monuments" to communities that the airlines wind up paying for. Well, he's close -- you pay for the airport/expansion, via passenger facility charges collected on behalf of the airport along with higher landing fees paid by airlines, which get passed on through higher ticket prices. I bet I know what you're thinking: just what we need -- another new fee.

So where does that leave us? Fewer flights, more packed planes, destinations that are harder and/or longer to get to -- and a certain level of misery for the folks downstream who run the motels and cafes that may take a hit as airlines tighten capacity.

I have two quick pieces of advice for travelers. First, shop earlier; the planes will fill up faster. This is especially important for you snowbirds -- if you want to get out of the cold this winter, start looking at airfares now. And second, OK, you've got your tickets -- now keep checking with the airline to make sure your carrier doesn't decide to drop your route.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.

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