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Developing air service at America’s Friendliest Airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor

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Alexandria Pierce, Air Service Development Manager, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport tells International Airport Review Editor, Holly Miles, how the airport is keeping pace with substantial growth and business development in the state of Arizona, ensuring it meets the air service needs of its community both in the short- and long-term.

How did the pandemic impact your passenger numbers? What measures did you take to protect your revenues?

The pandemic vastly impacted airports worldwide and we at Phoenix were certainly no exception. That said, Phoenix now close if not in some months exceeding 2019 passenger number levels and we have at times lead the nation in passenger recovery. Over the past two years, we have been fortunate to experience growth during the pandemic, with the addition of 78 routes and 13 new markets.
At the start of the pandemic, we worked hard to pull back everything that we could. We had several capital improvement projects that were in the pipeline which we halted because we wanted to ensure our focus remained on serving our existing customers to the best of our ability, and also to steward our revenues until things started picking up again.

Now our passengers are returning, we have started to open up our capital improvement programme again, looking at which of those projects we put on hold we should resume investigating – and that is really exciting. We are working on adding a concourse to the north side Terminal 3, a connecting bridge that would connect Terminal 3 and 4 pre-security, a possible hotel at Terminal 4 and a possible extension of the centre runway to improve operations. Construction is expected to begin in 2023 on a cross-field taxiway that will improve airfield operations and decrease aircraft taxi time.

What is your passenger demographic and what type of travel is most popular with your passengers?

Phoenix has been historically known as a leisure market and often when I talk to airlines, that’s how they know Phoenix. During the pandemic, we were especially grateful for the wonderful open spaces we have for people to explore. We have over 322 golf courses, 24 national parks – the most of any state in the U.S. – and we’re the eighth most visited state, meaning we have a very large leisure demographic.

Over the past five years, a massive amount of economic development has been happening under the leadership of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. We’ve really seen that continue during the pandemic, and that’s been a combination of foreign direct investment, population growth and the movement of headquarters into Phoenix.