Sky Harbor expect record-breaking 2023 as passenger numbers lag in 2022

The busy holiday travel season has arrived at Sky Harbor International Airport, and there is a new airline that just landed in Phoenix.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 2:49 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The busy holiday travel season has arrived at Sky Harbor International Airport, and there is a new airline that just landed in Phoenix.

“Sky Harbor is one of those areas that we think we can save guests time and money,” said Danny Cox, vice president of guest experience for Breeze Airways. The company just launched new direct routes to Provo, Utah and Charleston, South Carolina, and will soon add additional destinations. “We look at markets that have been underserved or are overpriced or only have maybe connection opportunities that they have to them, and so Sky Harbor and Phoenix gave us a great opportunity to find some of those.”

Other airlines are also seeing opportunity in Phoenix. American Airlines just announced it is adding 91 flights for the Super Bowl in February, and Frontier launched non-stop service to several cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Detroit. The airline also opened a new crew base in Phoenix, employing up to 180 pilots and 275 flight attendants. In the past two years, various airlines have added a total of 75 new routes at Sky Harbor.

Some are new destinations, while others are routes that were reinstated after being paused because of the pandemic, according to Lexie Pierce, air service development manager for Sky Harbor. She says the additions are fueling competition and will help drive down costs for consumers.

“It helps lower fares because there’s more competition in the market,” Pierce said. She said she believes airlines are gravitating to Sky Harbor because of business and leisure growth in the Phoenix area. “International travel is something we’re very focused on and increasing our number of international flights,” Pierce said. “We’ve done that by adding three new destinations during the pandemic, and that’s something that will continue to do because international travelers are important to Arizona and to our economic impact that it has.”

Despite the additions, overall passenger numbers this year are still lagging behind numbers from 2019. According to airport data through September, around 34.5 million people flew in and out of Sky Harbor. That’s a 5.5% drop compared to the same time in 2019 before the pandemic. “In the beginning of 2022, remember, we also had the Omicron variant and that did decrease our numbers, so that’s why we’re seeing numbers close to 2019,” Pierce said. “In 2023, we do expect those numbers to exceed 2019 and continue to be record breaking numbers.”

Breeze Airways hopes to be part of the expected growth. “We’re pretty confident about the markets we’ve announced, that those are prime for success,” Cox said. “And as we witness success, there may be other opportunities. We’ll have to see how the partnership goes.”