Las Vegas Plans To Rename Airport For Former Democratic Senator Harry Reid

A couple of weeks ago I flagged a movement to rename Las Vegas airport, ditching former Senator Pat McCarran’s name and replacing it with former Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid’s. Things have moved quickly, and Clark County voted to move forward and ask the FAA for its blessing to honor the retired Senate Democrat.

The strange predilection towards naming things for politicians – and living ones, no less – aside this is less about the powerful former legislator Reid and more about cancelling Pat McCarren for whom the airport is currently named.

McCarren was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Nevada between 1933 and 1954. He was the first U.S. Senator born in Nevada and served as the state’s former Chief Justice. He sponsored the 1938 Civil Aeronautics Act which created federal regulation of airline prices and routes (which lasted until the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act). In addition to Las Vegas’ McCarren airport there’s McCarran Street in northern Vegas and a McCarren Boulevard in Reno.

Though a Democrat, he was an opponent of Roosevelt’s New Deal. He was an admirer of Spanish fascists. And he was an anti-communist. He’s also one of the father’s of modern U.S. immigration law. Nevada’s Democratic U.S. House members have called McCarren’s legacy that “of racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism.”

Harry Reid has been perhaps best known in his post-Senate life for sharing that he believes in UFOs. And as Senator Majority Leader he got the highest-level classified briefings. Renaming the airport for him will not change its 3-letter code (LAS), but will incur expenses for rebranding and new signage, projected at $2 million to be covered by private donors.

Ultimately I’m not sure how much it matters, does anyone call Atlanta’s airport Hartsfield–Jackson? And how many of you know who they were without Googling? On a major news network this website was once referred to as View From The Right Wing yet I won’t call Washington’s National Airport ‘Reagan National’ (I lived in DC long before they renamed the airport for the nation’s 40th President).

I certainly don’t call airports by their full name, will always say I’m flying to or out of Las Vegas, and never refer to it as ‘Harry Reid airport.’ Will you?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Still waiting for a major U.S. airport to be named after a woman, although in (my) local news, I am pleased to see the Rochester airport being renamed for Frederick Douglass and honoring some diversity.

  2. I just do not understand why one would even consider naming an airport after a senator. London Heathrow and Gatwick are just fine.
    There are also good reasons to call Rome–Fiumicino International Airport “Leonardo da Vinci”. Even Russians stayed away from politics when they renamed their main gateway as Sheremetyevo Alexander S. Pushkin International Airport. Now back to Harry Reid – if I google “Famous People from Nevada” – somehow his name is not coming up.

  3. Maybe Russia can name one of its backcountry airports for former US Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and one for twice-impeached former US President Donald Trump.

  4. I think it’s silly to even bother with honorary names for an airport. Just call it by its location or main city/area being serviced (with some simple but logical modifier when necessary for major metro areas with more than one public airport) and be done with it. Anything else is just superfluous fluff.

  5. Someone overlooked Philadelphia PHL is still just “Philadelphi Interational”
    Perhaps “Constitiution International: would be a fitting name, but I guarantee there will be someone who objects because it isn’t poltically correcti

  6. Line up 100 people. Ask each of them who Pat McCarron was, and they will not know. In 20 years, line up 100 people. Ask them who Harry Reid was. They won’t know. Name the damn airport, “The Las Vegas International Airport.” You won’t have to buy new signs again.

  7. Never name a airport, freeway, bridge, etc after a living person, they tend to do something incredible stupid after that.

  8. Former Montgomery County, Maryland here (for almost 31 years). It’s always “National” and “Dulles”. Never Reagan.

  9. Just another ignorant waste of money (donate you money to help people in a more pisitive way). Just call airports after the cities they are located in. Keeps it simple and none political

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