America’s friendliest airport: Transforming Phoenix Sky Harbor
As Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport prepares for the grand opening of its state-of-the-art concourse, Heather Shelbrack, Special Projects Administrator for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, explains what makes the transformation so special – with a passenger-centric goal at the heart of the development.
Credit: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
How do you want passengers to describe your facilities? For Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), it is efficient, friendly, and enjoyable. Over the past few years, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, ‘America’s friendliest airport’, has undertaken a major capital investment programme. The airport’s transformation can be seen throughout its campus – from the newly modernised Terminal 3 that concluded its last phase in 2020, to the extension of the PHX Sky Train, to the Rental Car Centre opening later this year (2022). In addition, passengers through the airport’s busiest terminal, Terminal 4 (T4), are in for a treat with the opening of the eighth concourse this summer 2022 – a project that will radiate efficiency and boost the traveller’s experience while in the airport.
The state-of-the-art 130,000 square foot concourse will feature eight gates occupied by Southwest Airlines. Passengers will find everything they need in the concourse including an exciting array of concessions. The new restaurants and shops will be an excellent asset to help ensure passengers enjoy a relaxing and memorable airport experience. Phoenix Sky Harbor takes pride in how local concepts have been integrated into the airport’s terminals over the past few years, with the aim of allowing visitors and locals alike to enjoy a taste of Phoenix as they travel. That’s no different on this concourse with 25,000 square feet of space devoted to retail and food.
Integrating local businesses and concepts
For many, gazing out the window of their aircraft while approaching their destination brings excitement – excitement for experiencing a new destination or returning to a familiar one”
Furthermore, travellers will find local concepts such as award-winning Pedal Haus Brewery and Berry Divine – Acai Bowls, regional concepts Bobby’s Burgers and Eegee’s, and national concept Chick-Fil-A. These concepts will be operated by The Grove, Inc., a woman-owned business committed to 40 per cent small business participation. Emerging Domestic Market Ventures, LLC will also be operating Sip Coffee & Beer. This outlet will feature menu concepts from local Arizona companies so that visitors will have a true taste of what the state has to offer. The airport has also welcomed local hospitality and retail companies such as CULT Artisan Beverage Company, Native Ground Coffee, Mother Road Brewing Company, Tres Leches Café, Wild Tonic Kombucha, Half Moon Empanadas, San Tan Brewery, Real American Hero Coffee Company, Cactus Licker Coffee, Wild Tonic, and Salud Eats.
Showcasing local business doesn’t just apply to the concourse’s restaurants – Phoenix Sky Harbor’s shops are also providing passengers with access to local products. The Marshall Retail Group, LLC, has partnered with CASA Unlimited. They will be operating a news and convenience store, as well as a technology store. Both will feature specialty retail within the space and showcase local products from celebrated Phoenix businesses Changing Hands Bookstore and Melrose Pharmacy.
“With local businesses like Changing Hands bookstore and Melrose Pharmacy, along with a state-wide favourites like Eegee’s, we will now be showcasing some of the best we have to offer,” stated Phoenix Mayor, Kate Gallego. “I am always committed to creating opportunities for small businesses to succeed. Placing these organisations in front of global travellers is a great way to accelerate their growth and accentuate the things that make our community such a fabulous place to be.”
The new concourse will also feature a common use lounge. AD Partnership LLC dba Sapphire Lounge by the Club will offer 3,500 square feet of space and provide travellers with access to a destination to relax or work. The lounge will highlight many local elements and feature a specially curated menu. The lounge will be open to passengers of all airlines, and access will be available to Chase Sapphire Reserve card members, as well as members of Priority Pass or by purchasing a day pass.
“Providing a world-class experience to our customers is so important to us,” added Director of Aviation Services, Chad Makovsky. “This new concourse is invaluable not only because it provides modern and efficient facilities for our customers, but it provides Southwest Airlines with the resources to support air service to our growing community. Southwest is an important partner at Phoenix Sky Harbor and our second largest carrier.”
Accessible and inclusive facilities
The concourse will also feature a variety of other amenities including access to charging stations from every seat and tech tables providing workspace with charging stations. Additionally, there will be an Amenities Zone, which will include a nursing room, family restroom, vending and ATM machines and an animal relief area. In the gate hold areas, which seat up to 125, hearing loop connectivity has also been incorporated, allowing travellers to connect their hearing aids to the public address system to hear gate and overhead announcements.
‘A future-friendly outlook’
In the gate hold areas, which seat up to 125, hearing loop connectivity has also been incorporated, allowing travellers to connect their hearing aids to the public address system to hear gate and overhead announcements”
Passengers will also find amazing views of Phoenix’s mountains, as well as the Air National Guard 161st Refueling Wing. Those great views and Arizona sunshine will be easily enjoyed by travellers as the airport includes a new feature in this concourse – 14,000 square feet of electrochromic glazing on the glass. This intelligent technology provides various levels of tinting depending upon the level of sunlight at any given time of the day. The glazing will adjust to block the sun’s heat, reducing the building’s energy requirements and improving passenger comfort by blocking glare and keeping the interior space 15 degrees cooler than traditional windows.
“It will not only maintain a comfortable environment, but also improve energy efficiency in the terminal,” added Makovsky. “This is just one aspect of our sustainability programme for the airport overall. Phoenix Sky Harbor is committed to a future-friendly outlook and doing what we can to help the environment. This new concourse is a piece of that, and our goal for this project is to achieve LEED silver certification.”
Like the rest of the airport, art plays a significant role on this concourse. With one of the largest airport art programmes in the country, Sky Harbor will offer the opportunity to experience a magnificent art installation called ‘Phoenix Light, Phoenix Rising’ created by Los Angeles artist Susan Logoreci.
For many, gazing out the window of their aircraft while approaching their destination brings excitement – excitement for experiencing a new destination or returning to a familiar one. Passengers will have the opportunity to experience some of that same elation as they make their way into the concourse. There, they will find 28 2×3 feet airplane window shaped, terrazzo wall pieces that transport the visitor from a night view of Phoenix to the daytime local landscape. The window-shaped pieces will complement an artist-designed terrazzo floor which represents the aerial view of an arrival into the Phoenix area. It will give passengers the ability to slow down a little to enjoy the visual experience before making their way into the main concourse area.
In addition to the concourse itself, the project also included baggage handling upgrades, a connector and transfer bridge connecting the Airport’s A and D gates, as well as a consolidated security exit. The connector and transfer bridge are especially helpful for passengers and airport employees as now they can more easily transfer between the north and south post-security side of the Terminal. This new bridge, on the west side of T4, enhances security screening efficiency, allowing the Transportation Security Administration to balance passenger volumes between Checkpoints A and D.
Heather Shelbrack is a Special Projects Administrator for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, which includes Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and two general aviation airports Phoenix Deer Valley and Phoenix Goodyear. With more than 19 years of experience in the public relations industry, Shelbrack is responsible for managing the public information and community outreach sections. In her role, she oversees media relations, the department’s websites, social media, video production, printed material, and community outreach initiatives.
Shelbrack has worked for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department since 2007.
Aircraft, Airport construction and design, Airport development, Airside operations, Baggage handling, Passenger experience and seamless travel, Passenger volumes, Retail, Security, Sustainability, Sustainable development, Terminal operations