Last year, the International Air Transport Association declared Southwest the largest carrier in the U.S. based on domestic passengers. Nearly 16 million of them came to Las Vegas, accounting for almost 40 percent of McCarran’s total traffic in 2011.
That’s a far, thunderous cry from 1982, when the Little Airline That Could expanded its budget empire to Las Vegas. It was the 15th city added to the route map, originally drawn by Southwest’s cofounders on a cocktail napkin. The McCarran operation opened with 29 employees (some with awesome hot pants) and 29 flights serving nine cities. Today, it’s the second busiest in the Southwest system.
To celebrate that success and the three-decade milestone, the airline got together with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to cut a crazy-looking airplane cake and say a few words about the past, including two employees who have been with the outfit since day one. Today, nearly 3,000 Vegas-based employees handle close to 200 flights a day, selling the brand with a trademark sense of humor.
Humor was a theme in Southwest’s anniversary Twitter contest, Venture to Vegas. Followers answered Vegas-themed riddles with original photos for the chance to win one of five Sin City vacation packages. From a paper-coiffed Elvis to a Pomeranian showgirl, their Vegas collage is more a spew of clichés (and us without our barf bag). But when you consider what this city represents to the outside world—its promise never to take itself too seriously—you get on board, baby. Pass the mini pretzels.
Heels, feathers, lots of glitter! Find them on the Strip, what could be better? Winner
Something borrowed, something blue—was that Elvis watching you say, “I do?” Winner
Ooh-ing, ahh-ing, spending, and snapping—doing it all, except for napping! What am I? Winner
Hollywood in Vegas, lots of flicks—send us one that’s your favorite pick! Winner
Singers, dancers, comedians galore—when thinking Vegas, who do you most adore? Winner