Developing air service at America’s Friendliest Airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
Alexandria Van Haren, 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.
We are seeing billions of dollars being invested into the Phoenix economy. Traditionally, we had business travellers and there’s always been a strong business market in Phoenix, but it’s only going to get bigger. The TSMC, which is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, is building a $12 billion plant in the North Valley and that is just phase one. They are attracting suppliers that are investing millions of dollars into their own projects. Intel has recently announced they’re going to build the $20 billion addition to their semiconductor plant that’s in the Southeast Valley. These are just two examples – we’re looking at upwards of $40 billion in capital improvement or investments in Phoenix over the next five years.
You mentioned your passengers are mostly leisure travellers, what type of facilities, food & beverage and retail offerings do you provide to cater to these passengers?
Like every other airport in America, labour staffing shortages and supply chain have impacted both our food and beverage (F&B) and retail offerings during the pandemic. Our business and properties management team has worked closely with our concessionaires to host job hiring fairs and with our Security Badging Office team to expand office hours on the weekdays and weekends to process badge applications.
Phoenix set a global milestone to becoming the first airport in the world to offer travellers the ability to take a Waymo autonomous vehicle as a means of transportation to and from the airport”
In terms of our F&B offering, our programme reflects a mix of popular local brands and familiar national brands. The unique offerings provide passengers with an opportunity to experience a taste of Phoenix and the flavour of Arizona. We also completed the re-modernisation of Terminal Three in 2020, which included 14 new and exciting retail and F&B concepts that continued to showcase both local and national stores.
What is your route development strategy for the coming years?
Our focus is on working hard to provide the air service that will serve what our community needs. Our major focus is on international development, due to the amount of foreign direct investment that’s coming in, population growth, and skilled foreign workers that are coming to Arizona. We want to ensure that we are providing the air service that they need.
How do you plan on doing this?
We undertake market research in order to figure out what the needs of these business travellers are. We meet with different economic development agencies, as well as with the state, local government and individual.