Fewer passengers using Sky Harbor - East Valley Tribune: News

Fewer passengers using Sky Harbor

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Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 6:43 pm | Updated: 11:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Fewer passengers are arriving or departing the Valley through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport this year than passed through the local hub in 2007. But while airline ticket sales are down, retail and restaurant sales at Sky Harbor are way up.

Food and beverage revenue at the airport is 4 percent higher for the first five months of this year than for the same period in '07, and retail sales are up 7 percent, said Julie Rodriguez, Sky Harbor spokeswoman.

Fewer flyers: Passenger counts at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are down this year when compared with the same time last year. January through May, 2007 compared with 2008, Graphic by Donna Hogan, Scott Kirchhofer/EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE, SOURCE: Phoenix

"Passengers are buying food to take on the plane," Rodriguez said. "And they are getting to the airport earlier, so they have time to eat and shop."

For airlines, customer counts are heading the other way. Sky Harbor passengers were 4.5 percent fewer in May than in May 2007.

In fact, passenger numbers were down every month this year except February when Super Bowl XLII and hordes of fans and partyers landed in the Valley.

For the combined January-to-May period, passenger counts are down 1.7 percent compared with the first five months of 2007.

Nobody is really surprised.

"Aviation industry (numbers) are a direct reflection of the economy," Rodriguez said. "There's less discretionary income, and fewer people are flying."

And the passenger numbers are expected to fall even more when the busy summer season ends.

Most U.S. airlines have announced plans to cut flights and plane sizes in fall, some touting as much as double-digit drops.

Tempe-based US Airways, one of the biggest carriers at Sky Harbor, has announced plans to cut capacity by 6 to 8 percent in the fall, and 7 to 9 percent in 2009.

Other than the already announced big chunk of business to be slashed from Las Vegas' schedule, the rest of US Airways' flights to be scrubbed are scattered around the country, said airline spokeswoman Valerie Wunder, so she couldn't say how many seats to and from Sky Harbor will disappear.

But for local shopkeepers, the news is not so gloomy, because whoever is still flying is spending en route.

"We are loving life in the airport. We are definitely up for the first half of the year," said Candace Snorgrass, co-owner of Paradise Bakeries in Terminal 4, Terminal 3 and a small shop in Terminal 2 planned to undergo a big expansion.

The profitability of Sky Harbor retail is obvious from one other characteristic. More retailers want in, Rodriguez said.

Shop space is limited, and the demand for any space that opens up is high, she said.

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