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German airline returns to Vegas as international travel picks up

The gradual return of international travel to Las Vegas continued Thursday with Harry Reid International Airport welcoming back direct flight service from Frankfurt, Germany.

German airline Condor resumed its Frankfurt to Las Vegas flights for the first time in almost two years, marking a milestone moment in international travel recovery in Southern Nevada.

The process of seeing international travelers return has been a bumpy one, with Chris Jones, Reid airport spokesman, describing it as a two steps forward, one step back process. Thursday’s Condor flight was a big step in the right direction, he said.

“We worked for years to build up a robust international network and then out of nowhere in March 2020, we saw it go away almost overnight,” Jones said. “Within a span of a few days we went from having eight different airlines serving almost 20 different markets to nothing. Two years later, here we are… To be able to see people from Europe coming in from Frankfurt is just huge.”

The return of Condor comes on the heels of transatlantic flights returning to Reid last November with flights from London on Virgin Atlantic Airways. Later this month, Eurowings Discover will resume service from Frankfurt and Munich, Germany, and Edelweiss Air will bring back its service from Zurich, Switzerland, as well.

In January, 94,363 international passengers passed through Reid airport, a 337 percent increase over January 2021’s 21,572 passengers. Although the number is up significantly year-over-year, the volume still lags behind January 2020, which saw 309,091 international travelers.

Last year as a whole, Reid served 757,642 international travelers — down 80 percent compared to pre-pandemic 2019 — with the majority of those travelers coming from Mexico, Canada and Panama.

Julien Stoll from south Germany made Thursday’s trip on a whim, deciding to begin his first-ever voyage to the United States in Las Vegas.

“What brings me here is a spontaneous vacation trip and the flight went well,” Stoll said. “I’m looking forward to meeting a bunch of interesting people. That is the most important thing, then seeing the city of course.”

Stoll wasn’t aware of the significance of the flight and was caught off guard being welcomed by the media, a pair of showgirls and more fanfare.

“I was happy to see such a welcome here,” Stoll said. “I didn’t expect it at all.”

Stoll plans to attend a business function and sight-see around the city before heading off to California. After visiting San Francisco and Los Angeles, he’ll return to Southern Nevada in two weeks to fly back to Germany.

Travelers like Stoll are what has Jones optimistic that near-normal international traffic levels could soon be seen at Reid.

That still depends on other countries and other factors that can impact travel, Jones noted. Two airlines have yet to resume Las Vegas service — El Al Airlines and Korean Air.

“Now it’s going to be a matter of time before the volume comes back,” Jones said. “A lot of countries still have restrictions, or have recently lifted restrictions. Testing requirements and things like that, which have been deterrents to people traveling… I think we’re turning a corner to getting back to where we really want to be.”

Stoll warned others who are planning to travel from Europe to the U.S. to be ready for the added paperwork required to travel internationally during a pandemic.

“It was a ton of paperwork,” Stoll said. “If I would have to do it again I would think twice, or I would plan more time here in the country.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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