Newsroom | The Future of Air Travel in the MAG Region

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Sky Harbor Airport introduces new innovations. Reserve a time to go through airport security or use your mobile device to show your ID.

Aviation Director announces exciting outlook for Sky Harbor Airport

MAG estimates that by year 2055, there will be about 7.5 million residents in Maricopa and Pinal counties. With that large increase in population, planning ahead for efficient travel in and out of the Valley is essential. Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is doing just that.

City of Phoenix Director of Aviation Services Chad Makovsky recently shared with MAG’s Economic Development Committee how Sky Harbor is quickly recovering following the pandemic and exciting new initiatives for the future of travel in the MAG region. 

Sky Harbor view of Sky Train, Airplane and Autos with mountain view in background.

Bouncing Back After COVID

Just like other airports in the world, Sky Harbor saw a steep decline in passenger traffic during the pandemic. At MAG’s Economic Development Committee meeting in April, Makovsky said that Sky Harbor is once again seeing about the same number of travelers it had before the pandemic. “We were the fastest recovering airport of all airports over the period of 2019 to 2021,” Makovsky said. The recovery rate of Sky Harbor Airport is now at 85 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 68 percent. 

“The type of travel that we are serving is a little bit different than prepandemic,” Makovsky added. Sky Harbor is now seeing about 81 percent of leisure travel compared to 19 percent business. In 2019, those numbers were a 70 to 30 split, respectively. Sky Harbor continues operating an average of 512 daily departures to 134 nonstop destinations, connecting the MAG region with the world.  

PHX Reserve service at SkyHarbor check-in.The Innovations 

One of the innovations Sky Harbor has launched is the new free program called PHX Reserve. This program allows travelers to reserve a place in line at no cost when flying out of terminals 3 and 4. Makovsky said this program is going to take stress off the airport and the TSA screening officers by being able to have a more predictable flow of passengers and ensuring a better experience for fliers. 

Sky Harbor also is making history by becoming the first airport in the United States to launch a new program in partnership with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division and Apple, which allows people to access their state-issued identification on their mobile devices. This feature will allow users to be able to authenticate themselves with TSA using Apple Wallet, and not have to worry about ever forgetting their ID when traveling through Sky Harbor. 

Rental car center final SKY Train station at night.Phx Sky Train Phase II 

Passengers at the airport will soon have an opportunity to experience the new section of the PHX Sky Train that will connect them to the rental car facility at the airport. The two-and-a-half-mile stretch represents a $745 million dollar investment that will also connect passengers to a new economy parking opportunity and an additional West Terminal area in the future. 

Makovsky says this investment will take about 80 buses off the roadways, reducing the congestion on Sky Harbor Boulevard. The Sky Train would be picking up passengers at the rental car facility every 3 minutes for a short 3-to-5-minute train ride to the terminals. 

Changing Infrastructure at Sky Harbor

This coming June, Sky Harbor will experience the activation of the eighth and final concourse in Terminal 4 that will introduce eight brand new gates. These gates will all serve Southwest Airlines flights. 

As the region expands, the airport needs to expand as well. The director shared that a new crossover taxiway will be built to connect the north runway to the central runway on the west end of the airport. This seeks to reduce taxi times and delays for planes landing and taking off from Sky Harbor. 

There are plans to create a post-security walkway that will connect Terminals 3 and 4, allowing passengers to go through any security gate to catch a flight. 

Conceptual design of a new concourse in Terminal 4 that will introduce eight brand new gates

An Airport Hotel at the Airport

How does a hotel within the airport sound? That’s also part of the investment plan that seeks to make the amenities of Sky Harbor world-class. The hotel would be built within Terminal 4. Makovsky said this is a much-requested amenity by both passengers and business partners that could provide flexibility to travelers looking to catch flights very early in the morning or who need quicker access to the airport. 

Plan view showing new improvements at SkyHarbor Airport

Environmentally Conscious 

Over the years, Sky Harbor has been investing in environmentally friendly solutions. One of them has been converting part of the landscape to a desert xeriscaping, which has saved more than 5 million gallons of water a year, according to Makovsky. This has resulted in savings of more than $500,000 dollars in operating expenses.

Published April 12, 2022