Sky Harbor flies high in ranking of busiest U.S. commercial airports

Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which was recently named best of the nation’s largest commercial airport, even though it did not finish in first place in any one category. (Photo by Alan Levine/Creative Commons)

Authors of the report said that there were areas where Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport could stand to improve, inciuding its on-site amenities for travelers. (Photo by Ken Lund/Creative Commons)

One of the reasons Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport did well in a new national report was the relatively low number of delayed or canceled flights there. (Photo by Robert Couse-Baker/Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON – Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport did not claim the top prize in any one category but was good enough across the board to get ranked as the best commercial airport in the nation in a recent report.

The November report by travel website The Points Guy said Sky Harbor’s relatively few flight delays and cancellations, and its proximity to downtown were among the factors that pushed it to the top of the 30 busiest international airports in the U.S.

“Because it did not have the No. 1 score (in any single category), Sky Harbor could do better in other areas,” said James Cury, editorial director with The Points Guy. “It could do better in timeliness. It also got the worst score for lounges. People don’t need to – or want to – stay in lounges, for whatever reason.”

Sky Harbor spokeswoman Heather Lissner welcomed the report, noting in an emailed statement that at “America’s friendliest airport, our goal is to deliver world-class customer service to every customer, every day.”

The report measured airports in three major categories: Timeliness, accessibility and amenities.

Phoenix Sky Harbor overall topped 29 other international commercial airports in the U.S., including Portland, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Honolulu International, which rounded out the top five. The bottom five were New York’s LaGuardia and JFK, New Jersey’s Newark, Chicago’s O’Hare in Chicago and Detroit Metro.

But Douglas Kidd, executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers, said the problems with the airports do not have to do with the airports themselves as much as they have to do with lax oversight by the federal government.

“The country relies on airlines,” Kidd said. “They want to make money and run profitably and take care of people. They can treat passengers well and make money.”

Kidd said the next secretary of Transportation needs to make “big changes” at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration, including setting airline seat standards and ensuring that TSA agents are licensed.

“Airports are bursting at the seams,” Kidd said. “There needs to be more work done there to make sure that people aren’t stuck at airports waiting. There is room for improvement in all aspects of airports.”

Lissner said in her statement that Sky Harbor is “consistently working” to improve facilities for travelers and has several projects in the works, including updates to certain terminals and an extension to the Sky Train airport rail system.

“Our Terminal 3 is currently undergoing a modernization,” said her statement, adding that Phoenix “recently approved plans for the extension of the PHX Sky Train to our Rental Car Center and the addition of an eighth concourse to our busiest terminal, Terminal 4.

“All of these projects will further enhance our airport and the level of service we provide to our customers,” the statement said.

With one heavy holiday travel season just past, and another looming, Cury encouraged travelers to try to fly through airports that did well in the report. But he also said that travelers can take some matters into their own hands.

“There’s lots of tips for holiday travel,” Cury said. “You have to be proactive in finding cancellations, signing up for alerts and apps if you can, and signing up for expedited security measures” such as the TSA Pre-Check program.