Despite enduring over a year of pandemic-related travel setbacks and fiscal losses, Sky Harbor International Airport has managed to expand its services and offer more choice to its travelers.
In the last year, the Phoenix- area airport has added 52 new markets to its flight roster from eight different airlines. And traffic is beginning to rebound, even as COVID-19 continues to have a hold on the community: In June 2021, the most recent month for which statistics are available, more than 3.6 million passengers traveled through Sky Harbor. That passenger total is only 5% lower than June 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
New direct flights to Hawaii are launching from Southwest Airlines this fall. Sky Harbor has also seen additional destinations that include Vancouver and Calgary in Canada, Puerto Vallarta, Loreto, Cullacan, San Jose Del Cabo, Cancun and La Paz in Mexico. Then there are brand-new flights throughout the continental U.S., such as cities throughout nearby California, Bozeman, Montana, Green Bay, Wisconsin and more.
Sky Harbor spokesperson Greg Roybal said Phoenix specifically was uniquely prepared to withstand the pandemic, as it was steadily growing economically prior to the shutdowns and Arizona is considered a destination for leisure travel at a time when business travel continues to be sparse.
“This travel can be attributed to the fact that Sky Harbor continues to have a strong demand for domestic leisure travel compared to business travel, which is signifi cantly down nationwide,” he said. “We are finding that most people who are traveling right now are either visiting friends and relatives or taking a vacation and going to tourism destinations. Of course, Arizona offers some wonderful destinations with opportunities for outdoor, socially distanced activities.”
Lexie Pierce, Sky Harbor’s Air Service Development Manager, added that the airport has worked hard to keep costs low, which is enticing for airlines looking to add new markets to their business.
“Airlines base the decision to add flights on a number of factors including the current and projected demand of the originating market and the destination market,” she said. “The cost of utilizing an airport also comes into place. Phoenix works hard to remain one of the lowest-cost airports in the United States, which is very attractive to airlines. Airlines will also base decisions on other factors such as availability of the appropriate size aircraft and the fit for their network strategy.”
With the addition of 52 new markets, Pierce said continued growth is a major goal of Sky Harbor’s because competition goes a long way to create lower fares for customers; as the city continues to thrive, so will the airport.
“Phoenix was well positioned prior to the pandemic due to the large amount of domestic and leisure travel as well as connecting passengers,” she said. “Phoenix’s business growth and the influx of residents has increased the demand for air service.”
That sentiment was echoed by Southwest Airlines, which, in addition to its direct flights to Honolulu, Kona, Lihue and Maui in Hawaii, has also added flights to and from Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Chicago O’Hare, Houston Intercontinental (IAH), Bozeman, MT out of Phoenix.
The airline just reported a second quarter net income of $348 million after a tough year.
“Phoenix continues playing an important role in our network of 121 cities,” said spokesperson Dan Landerson. “We are always looking for new opportunities to add nonstop service for our Customers between Sky Harbor and the places they want to visit.”