Phoenix seeks its place in the international sun

Phoenix Sky Harbor International is a bustling domestic airport, with competing hub operations on both Southwest Airlines and US Airways. If you are flying around the American southwest, odds are that you will pass through Phoenix at some point.

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City of Phoenix

But if your destination is somewhere abroad, Dallas-Fort Worth or Los Angeles are much more likely to be in your future. 

International service from Sky Harbor is limited to mostly Canada and Mexico with a daily nonstop to London Heathrow on British Airways. International traffic represented just 5.4% of overall passenger traffic, or 2.19 million passengers, in 2012, according to airport data.

“We want more nonstop [international] service to places where there is demand,” Deborah Ostreicher, deputy aviation director at Sky Harbor, tells Airline Business on the sidelines of the Phoenix International Aviation Symposium on 25 April. She names Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Tokyo as well as an additional flight to London as markets where the airport sees demand for nonstop service.

Airlines may be coming around, too.

The proposed American Airlines-US Airways merger creates a huge amount of possibility for the airport. Ostreicher says that the airport is targeting the merged carrier for new service as well as its Oneworld alliance partners, naming Japan Airlines to Tokyo as a possibility.

Andrew Nocella, senior vice-president of marketing and planning at US Airways, says that there are no specific plans for international service from Phoenix after the merger but that it would create many opportunities for the hub, at a media event on 24 April. He cites the combined fleet and networks.

Together the carriers had 148 widebody aircraft with an additional 62 on order at the end of March. The orderbook includes 42 787s, which – along with the Airbus A350 – is seen by many analysts as ideal for international service from Phoenix.

“The 787 is the right type of airplane for a Oneworld airline to serve Asia from here,” says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Hudson Crossing, on the sidelines of the Phoenix symposium.

Ambitions and possibilities aside, the reality for international service to Phoenix is very much up in the air. The merger has yet to be approved while no route launched by an airline specifically with the 787 has flown long enough to prove its worth. 

International travellers would be well advised to keep up on the dining options at Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles for at least the near term.

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