Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

The Main Phoenix Airport is Minutes From Downtown Phoenix

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is the largest airport in Arizona. It is located right in downtown Phoenix, making it very convenient to get to all the cities of the greater Phoenix area, including Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale and other cities and towns. It is also very close to the Phoenix Convention Center, Chase Field (home of the Arizona Diamondbacks) and the Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly known as US Airways Center (home of the Phoenix Suns).

About Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport:

  • This major airport is one of the easiest to navigate in your car, from a signage perspective.
  • The airport is modern, with light and large spaces. It is pleasant to walk around, and it is clean.
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport prides itself on its Museum and Art Program. If you have time to spare, you can see wonderful art exhibits. There are permanent collections as well as changing exhibits.
  • Getting from terminal to terminal doesn't take forever. Ten minutes usually does the trick.
  • There are neat shops and dining options at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at Terminals 3 and 4 and new places are opening up all the time as Terminal 4 continues it's modernization project. Businesses here generally don't overcharge for their merchandise or food, as happens at some other airports.
  • I like the easy-to-read display at Baggage Claim that shows where my bags will arrive. No more strategic positioning to pounce on a carousel when the flight number pops up!
  • The Phoenix airport was the first to install an innovative paging system, doing away with those white paging phones. Messages may be sent in a variety of ways including a touch screen, Braille enhanced keyboard, a telephone handset or headset, or an EZ access device for those with limited hand mobility. Instructions are available in English, Spanish or German. The names of those being paged are both announced through speakers inside the terminal and displayed on monitors throughout the airport.
  • The are nearly 150 Assistance Call Boxes in parking lots at Phoenix Sky Harbor. Now if you have a flat tire, or can't get into your car, or can't even find your car, help is just a call away.
  • Sky Harbor Airport now has short term (less than four hours) parking. I can always find a spot now when I'm just going to pick someone up! Don't want to park, but you need a place to wait? Try a Cell Phone Lot.
  • Free WiFi is now available in all three terminals in the passenger areas, near the gates, shops and restaurants.
  • Sky Harbor is dog-friendly!

There are always improvements that can be made. Every time I list one of them here, Sky Harbor takes care of it -- even if it takes a couple of years. Pretty soon, there won't be anything left on my wish list.... In any case, here are some items that could be improved at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport:

  1. What Happened to Terminal 1?
    It doesn't bother me, but many people don't understand the terminal numbering system at the airport. Those of us who have lived here for a while know that there are three terminals at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, AZ. No, they are not Terminals 1, 2 and 3. They are Terminals 2, 3 and 4. Logically enough, Terminal 1 (or T1) was the first and only terminal when the Phoenix airport opened in 1952. I recall flying into Phoenix and waiting for my bags -- outside on the sidewalk as a conveyer brought them by. Increases in air traffic and bigger planes led to the eventual demise of Terminal 1. The most recent terminal, T4, opened in 1990. Southwest Airlines moved to the new terminal and T1 was razed in 1991. Why didn't they renumber the terminals? Probably for two reasons. One was to eliminate the confusion that might ensue for passengers, and the other was to save some money on all new signage throughout the airport. But I'm just guessing. I wasn't at that meeting!

  2. How Long Does it Take to Get Bags at Baggage Claim?
    It can take a very long time--20 or 30 minutes--for the baggage to arrive at Baggage Claim. I find this especially true at Terminal 4, the largest of the three terminals.

  3. Will There Be More Terminal Changes?
    Terminal 2, now the oldest and slated for destruction when a new terminal is built in the future, is lacking in shopping and eating choices. It's not a very attractive terminal, either!

Here are some interesting facts provided by the City of Phoenix Aviation Department:

  • The City of Phoenix bought the airport for $100,000 in 1935.
  • In 2005 over 41 million passengers were processed at Sky Harbor. Terminal 4 is the busiest--32.3 million passengers flew in and out of Terminal 4 in 2005. That terminal, where US Airways and Southwest have their gates, handles about 75% of the passenger traffic.
  • In January 2006, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was ranked the 7th busiest in the country for passengers and the 8th busiest in the nation and the world for operations (takeoffs and landings).
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had more than 42 million passengers in 2007. It was a new record. New passenger records have been set every year since 2003. Sky Harbor was the eighth-busiest airport in the nation in 2007, according to a Federal Aviation Administration's ranking.
  • Each day, there are approximately 1,600 take-offs and landings at Sky Harbor, including commercial, general aviation, military and cargo flights.
  • The airport itself takes up 3,000 acres.
  • There are 3 terminals with over 100 gates. They are Terminals 2, 3 and 4. Terminal 1 was finished in 1952 and was the only terminal until 1962. By the time the 1980's came around, air traffic in Phoenix had increased dramatically and instead of performing major renovations to the terminal, Terminal 4 was built. Terminal 1 closed in the early 1990s, and the decision was made not to renumber the other terminals because passengers had memorized which airlines were served out of each terminal.
  • The average number of passengers at Sky Harbor is more than 100,000 every day. An additional 125,000 people come to the airport each day, including employees, passengers' friends, families and drivers.
  • The City of Phoenix Aviation Department employs 750 people and there are over 31,000 employees who work at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. More than 300,000 total jobs are supported by the Phoenix airport system with an annual payroll of 10.3 billion (2005).
  • The Phoenix Airport System, including Sky Harbor, Deer Valley and Goodyear Airports, is the largest economic engine in the State of Arizona, providing a total economic impact of $56 million per day and $20.4 billion per year.
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    Map to PHX - Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
    Map to PHX - Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Map Data © 2016 Google
    Here's a zoomable map to help you figure out where you are in relation to where you are going.
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    Sky Harbor Airport Rental Car Center
    Sky Harbor Airport Rental Car Center. Judy Hedding

    If you need to rent a car when you get to Phoenix, you'll have to take a free shuttle from the airport to the Rental Car Center. Here's how it works, with pictures. Bonus: see what Phoenix readers had to say about their experience using the rental car center.

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    Find Cheap Gas
    I would avoid this gas station, even if the gas is cheap!. Judy Hedding

    If you have rented a car at the Sky Harbor Rental Car Center and you want to return it with a full tank, here are the closest gas stations. I don't include the one in the photo, though!

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    If you are leaving on a busy holiday weekend, you''ll want to check these holiday travel tips before heading off to the airport.
    Continue to 5 of 17 below.
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    Terminal 4 Parking at Sky Harbor
    Terminal 4 Parking. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
    The Phoenix airport offers a discount program for parking in Terminals 3 and 4. Check this page to see how the deal works. I tried it, and I share my tips.
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    If you are simply picking someone up who is arriving at the airport and you don't want to pay to park, Sky Harbor has an option for you. It's the Cell Phone Waiting Lot.
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    Judy Hedding
    Phoenix and Tempe have a light rail system, and you can get to it on a people mover at the airport. It is called the PHX Sky Train.
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    © Judy Hedding
    Now that the PHX Sky Train is in place it can be pretty confusing to navigate the airport. Here is the detailed information about where the train goes, where it doesn't go, where to park -- well, you get the picture.
    Continue to 9 of 17 below.
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    © Judy Hedding
    Get specific directions and see an interactive map to the PHX Sky Train station in Phoenix. It's at the same location as the METRO Light Rail station.
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    Lost Keys at PHX
    Lost Keys at PHX. Courtesy Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
    Did you misplace your key, your wallet, your jacket or your cell phone? Try the Lost & Found at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
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    Where is Terminal 1?

    Photo Courtesy Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
    I'll tell you where it is. Nowhere.
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    Unclaimed Luggage Sky Harbor Airport Phoenix
    Unclaimed Luggage. Tim Boyle / Getty
    I am often asked about where people can check their carry-on items at Sky Harbor during long layover. Here's the answer but you won't like it!
    Continue to 13 of 17 below.
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    Currency Exchange at Sky Harbor Airport Phoenix
    Currency Exhange. Adrienne Bresnahan / Getty
    Terminal 4 is where the foreign currency exchange counters are located. If you have arrived at a different terminal, you can take a free transportation to Terminal 4.
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    Your pooch can get a little exercise at Terminals 3 and 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport as well as at the 44th Street PHX Sky Train Station and East Economy parking area.
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    Judy Hedding
    These hotels are especially convenient to the Phoenix airport.
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    Sky Harbor Airport Monsoon Dust Storm
    Arizona Dust Storm and Monsoon Picture Gallery Monsoon dust storm at Sky Harbor International Airport. 7 p.m., July 18 2009. © Merle Shown, used with permission.
    Does the airport close when it gets hot in Phoenix? Here's the truth.
    Continue to 17 of 17 below.
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    Sunset at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, AZ
    Sunset at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, AZ. Christopher A Flores, used with permission
    If you are lucky, this might be what you see when you fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.