Terminal 3 (housing the E Concourse) at Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport opened this summer to much fanfare in the press. Everyone oohed and ahhed over the slick new technology, like self-check baggage kiosks and self-scanning ticket machines at the gates—all ostensibly designed to speed processes along. When I realized that my September flights would likely land and take off from the new terminal, I was excited to finally get a firsthand look at this new wonder. What a disappointment that was.
When my plane landed, and I stepped into the airport, I was disoriented. Did we accidentally fly into Las Vegas, New Mexico instead of Las Vegas, Nevada? Where was the sound of slot machines that always used to greet me, filling me with the excitement of knowing I was in “Vegas, baby”? Where were the ads for all the shows around town, filling me with the endless possibilities for how to spend my evenings on the town? Where were the long, long corridors of boutique shops and restaurants and all their shiny objects to entertain me during the walk to baggage claim?
It was as quiet as a library. I suspect there was a stern woman lurking behind a desk somewhere occasionally telling people “shush” and “For God’s sake, no fun is allowed in here!” The airport has taken away everything I loved about it, leaving me with a bland, de-themed terminal that could exist in any airport in any city in the world. Thanks for sucking the joy out of the Vegas airport experience for me, McCarran.
Terminal 3, as you might imagine, was built to expand the airport and its capacity as well as upgrade facilities. Technically speaking, the airport accomplished what it set out to do. Terminal 3 has 14 gates, including 7 international. The concourse is 2300 feet long. There are plenty of electrical outlets and free wifi.
Terminal 3 is self-contained with its own baggage claim and taxi stand, so you no longer have to take a tram to the main building to get your luggage. It is efficient, if my experience was anything to go by. The security and taxi lines are not as long, so they move quicker. You can get in and out a lot faster. Of course, you’ll want to, because there’s little of interest to keep you here.
The dining choices are nothing to write home about—mostly counter service joints. (At the time, the only coffee joint was a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf shop with terrible coffee and worse service. This may have been replaced by a Starbucks; I can only hope.) And there are just a handful of shops (including 3 Hudson News outlets), an XpresSpa where you can get a 20 minute chair massage (in full view of everyone in the Terminal, ’cause that’s not awkward) and a shoe shine place. There’s no fear of blowing your casino winnings on a shopping spree at the airport, that’s for sure.
The airport website indicates there are 300 slot machines in Terminal 3, but I only saw a small room with machines that I suspect was also the smoking lounge and a couple of lonely little banks in the outer concourse. The concourse itself is vast and empty and cavernous. It exudes no warmth whatsoever.
Look, Terminal 3 may have technology out the wazoo and be all streamlined and efficient in moving people to and fro, but that’s not all the airport experience should be. It should offer a microcosm of the city it belongs to. I want to feel like I’m in Las Vegas the minute I step off the plane and I want to drag out my Las Vegas experience right up until I board my plane home.
I want to have a full table service breakfast, a Starbucks iced coffee and one last spin on the slot machines before I leave. I might like to get a chair massage, but certainly not where everyone walking by can watch me. I want to look around me and see people having fun. I want to be able to kill an hour roaming through multiple little shops full of kitschy Vegas memorabilia that I would never actually buy but secretly find amusing. It’s not that these elements don’t exist in Terminal 3; but the variety and abundance is currently lacking.
On the positive side, there is more than enough room in this terminal to add more restaurants, bars, slot machines, shops, and other diversions. It’s just a matter of whether or not they will. Until and unless they do, those of us who have to fly in and out of Terminal 3 will just have to start and end our Las Vegas experiences in our hotel lobbies.
Have you flown through Terminal 3 yet? What did you think of it?