One part of commercial aviation history unique to Nevada is the gambling shuttle airline. Originally created to fill hotel rooms and gaming floors, this type of airline later changed through the use of individual chartered flights and "high roller" aircraft.
Julie Weintraub created one of the first versions of the shuttle in the mid-1950s, when he set up block room rentals and chartered flights to Las Vegas from New York City. This was a private effort, with support from casino owners through special rates and other offers. In the early 1960s, Bernie Cohen created regular shuttles for the Flamingo, while Weintraub worked with the Dunes.
In 1957, Hacienda owner "Doc" Bayley decided to compete with the Dunes and Thunderbird Hotels and provide free flights from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. His effort was the idea of Hacienda employee Harry Price. Bayley's offer was simple: for $27.50, you could fly from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, spend a night in a deluxe room, and get a free tote bag, a bottle of champagne and $5 in chips for the casino. The popularity of the flights soon made the Hacienda Hotel the largest single buyer of California champagne. It also forced the addition of more aircraft, including DC-3s, DC-4s, and eventually Lockheed Constellations, with Bayley and the Hacienda running a fleet of thirty airplanes at the height of the promotional efforts.
By 1961, more visitors to Las Vegas were arriving at McCarran terminal by Hacienda fleet than by all the commercial airlines combined. This led to a dispute with the Civil Aeronautics Board, which officially stopped the flights on July 10, 1962. This dispute also ended the Dunes and Thunderbird flights.
For the five years it operated, the Hacienda fleet brought thousands of visitors to Las Vegas and the hotels. Doc Bayley did not give up the dream of flying in guests on a regular basis, and the hotel purchased at least four Constellations after the flights were stopped. Later, the hotel used Mercer Airlines and a small fleet of private DeHaviland Doves for chartered flights. While this effort was less successful than the earlier airline, the casino shuttle idea never died. Even today, many properties fly high rollers to Las Vegas on their own private aircraft.
Janice Fraser Bauer. Flying the Line: A Pictorial History of Western Airlines and Inflight. Unknown, 1986.
Daniel Bubb. Hacienda Airlines: A First-Class Airline for Coach-Class Passengers. Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Volume 44, Number 3, Fall 2001.
Edward Linn. Big Julie of Vegas. Walker and Company, 1974.
Mark Hall-PattonLast Updated: 2010-02-26 12:21:06