The Las Vegas International Airport name transition has finally come to a close. On December 14, the Nevada airport dropped ‘McCarran’ from its name, in favor of the new title ‘Harry Reid International Airport’.
The name change comes as no surprise, as calls to have the airport renamed dated back as far as 2012, as Patrick McCarran was seen as a controversial figure due to his anti-semitic, racist and xenophobic comments. Prior motions were denied, but the matter came to the forefront once again as an indirect effect of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
The matter was once again brought up for discussion and a decision was made in early February after the Clark County Commission voted unanimously (7 votes) to have the name changed from McCarran International Airport to Harry Reid International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also recognized the change, updating all records and sectional charts to reflect the name effective June 17, 2021. Even before the change went into effect, many airlines also started referring to the airport by its new name. However the IATA (International Air Transport Association) and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) codes LAS and KLAS remain the same respectively.
McCarran International Airport was initially founded as Alamo Field back in 1942, and was purchased by then Nevada Senator Pat McCarran (in office from 1933 to 1954), and was eventually renamed McCarran Field in December 1948. McCarran also played an instrumental role in the passage of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, which resulted in the formation of an independent aviation administration called the Civil Aeronautics Authority. This organization would eventually evolve into today’s Federal Aviation Administration.
The airport was renamed after Harry Reid who served as a Senator from 1987 to 2015, holding the role of Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015. He was recognized for his contributions to the state.
In a statement, the former Senator said:
For my whole life, I’ve been corning and going from McCarran Airport, since the first time I ever got on a plane, back in 1958. This airport has been my gateway to the world. During my 35 years in Washington, I was here a lot. Home means Nevada, and for me, the airport long ago became synonymous with home. Arriving here meant coming back to Nevada, the home where I was born and grew up, and where Landra and I have happily raised our children. I love this state.
The airport is a very special place to me. I worked hard during my years in Congress to help build and grow the airport, and it is a source of tremendous pride to me. It is an outstanding facility, a world class international transportation hub. It is the indispensable ingredient to Las Vegas’ success; it’s the gateway through which millions come from every corner of the world to see our city, which is like no other place on earth.
So, it’s the greatest of honors to have my name on this airport. I am so grateful to Tick Segerblom, whose idea this was, and to the Clark County Commissioners, who voted to make this change. I also thank all my many forever friends who worked to secure this honor for me, and who generously contributed to the cost of rebranding the airport. No taxpayer dollars will be spent on these changes; all expenses will be covered by donations. That was important to me.
Most importantly, I thank the people of Nevada for letting me serve. It has been the greatest privilege of my life.
The renaming project which is being privately funded, will cost around $7.2 million (once completed) and comes at no expense to tax payers. So far $4.2 million has been pumped into the rebranding exercise, which allowed them to initiate the first of three phases in October 2021. Once the outstanding $3 million is obtained, this will allow officials to complete phases two and three. Even though the new name was formally introduced on December 14, the “McCarran” titles will still be seen around some parts of the airports until the remaining phases are completed.
[Featured Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)]