US Airways to end O.C.-Las Vegas flights

US Airways is surrendering in its battle with Southwest Airlines for dominance in flights between Orange County and Las Vegas, locals’ favorite vacation destination.

The airline will end its five-times-a-day non-stop service after Feb. 10. That will leave Southwest with a monopoly on flights to “Sin City.” from Orange County. Marketing surveys show Las Vegas is by far the top vacation destination for Orange County residents.

Southwest currently operates six flights each way on the route. JetBlue continues to offer three daily flights between Long Beach Airport to Las Vegas. 

The lack of competition on the OC-Las Vegas route won’t have an immediate impact on fares. Southwest’s website showed fares beginning at under $140 roundtrip for dates before and after US Airways ends its service.

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The move by US Airways is part of a general withdrawal from the Las Vegas hub it inherited when it merged with America West in 2005. The airline announced a series of cost-cutting measures in October 2009, including closing a maintenance facility at John Wayne Airport and cutting a number of domestic and international flights throughout its system. At the time, US Airways said it would cut daily departures out of Las Vegas from 64 to 36, but did not specify which destinations would be affected.

US Airways spokeswoman Liz Landau said there were no plans to replace the Las Vegas service with flights to other destinations from Orange County

“We won’t be using it for other routes at this time,” Landau said. “However, we will still have service to Phoenix from John Wayne.”

The US Airways cutbacks in Las Vegas have caused anger in Nevada political circles, where up to 400 jobs will be lost when all of the cost cutting is implemented.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., criticized the airline earlier this month as cutting just as Las Vegas has been showing signs of recovering from its economic funk. Passenger volume at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas increased last month for the first time in several months. Reid said the cutbacks are shortsighted. The airport is in the midst of a large-scale terminal and facility expansion that began prior to the current economic downturn.

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