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For one day, Phoenix Sky Harbor was the busiest airport in the world

Phoenix Business Journal

Phoenix officials believe Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was the busiest airport in the entire world the day after Super Bowl LVII.

While the airport, its airlines and the U.S. Department of Transportation have not done a full accounting of that day, an initial report issued Thursday showed that more than 200,000 people traveled through Sky Harbor on Feb. 13, the day following Super Bowl LVII, which was played in Glendale at State Farm Stadium. Even though the specific numbers aren’t in yet, city officials said that this will mark the busiest single day in Sky Harbor’s history.

Most airlines increased the number of flights to and from Phoenix around the Super Bowl, and on Feb. 13 there were a total of 1,691 takeoffs and landings at Sky Harbor, which a was 40% increase from the average 1,200 on a normal day.

In total, TSA screened 90,244 total passengers – including commercial, charter and private flights – on Monday Feb. 13, which was the most in the entire nation.

“U.S. airports are the busiest in the world,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said. “We believe we were the busiest airport for outbound traffic in the world on Monday.”

More than 47,000 bags were checked at Sky Harbor on Monday, 9,100 rental cars were returned, more than 50,000 people rode the Sky Train and there were more than 25,000 combined taxi and rideshare operations at the airport on Monday.

“While Sunday was the Super Bowl, Monday was game day for the region’s airports,” Chad Makovsky, the director of aviation services at Sky Harbor, said. “Our local food and beverage concessionaires reported all-time record sales on Monday as well.”

To help with operations, Sky Harbor, the airlines and TSA all brought in more staff on Monday, he said. The TSA brought in hundreds of agents and K-9s from other markets to help get everyone screened and Makovsky said there was never more than a 22 minute wait at any of the TSA checkpoints.

Sky Harbor saw more than 300 private business and corporate flights on Monday, and other general aviation airports like Deer Valley and Goodyear saw major increases, Makovsky said. FAA data shows that Glendale Municipal Airport and Scottsdale Airport were busy soon after the game ended Sunday night, with private flights leaving one right after the other until about midnight.

‘Transportation touchdown’

Along with the airport, the Valley saw increases in other forms of transportation around the Super Bowl, leading Gallego to call it the week around the Super Bowl a “transportation touchdown.”

“No matter the outcome on the field, we feel like Phoenix won during the Super Bowl,” Gallego said.

In total, the Valley Metro saw about 250,000 passenger boardings on the light rail during the Super Bowl events, about a 60% increase from regular ridership.

“We also welcomed 10 new modern light rail vehicles for the Super Bowl,” said Jessica Mefford-Miller, Valley Metro’s CEO. “It allowed us to deliver service across 50 trains. That new capacity and cutting-edge technology is helping us deliver a more comfortable transit experience for our customers.”

The NFL and other businesses made donations so that guests headed to NFL events downtown had their pass included with their tickets.

Gallego has multiple reasons to boost the success of the airport and light rail — she’s an open advocate for public transit and increasing its service in the Valley and she is the mayor of the city that owns the airport — but she said there are other ramifications of having a successful transportation system around the Super Bowl.

“There is huge civic pride around Super Bowl and our business partners understood that and were committed to making sure we had a great welcome,” Gallego said. “We are now very competitive for any global event.”

Gallego said the NFL told her that the league was “thrilled” with how things went on the transportation side and she said it will make Phoenix more competitive when it comes to bidding on other major events and meetings in the future.

“We set a track record here by showing we can handle major events like the Super Bowl,” Makovsky said. “When we are applying to host events going forward, we can actually show them exactly what we did for the Super Bowl. We can show them the customer feedback we got. That will go a long way in getting us future events in the Valley.”

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