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Phoenix Sky Harbor leaves jet setters with few overseas options

PHOENIX — It may have “international” in the name, but jet setters looking to fly over an ocean on a flight departing from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport aren’t left with a lot of options.

The only route that leaves Phoenix, crosses an ocean and lands in a foreign country is flown by British Airways between the desert and London’s Heathrow Airport.

So what gives?

“Phoenix and Los Angeles, because of their proximity, would compete with each other,” Rick Seaney with said. “Having flights out of Los Angeles or Phoenix, like American has out of San Francisco, would compete for some of that Asian traffic, internationally,”

Seaney said, while Phoenix is an up-and-coming market, it serves more traffic in North America rather than overseas.

“Phoenix is growing,” he said. “It has a lot of local traffic that needs to go, but when you start talking about international flights, a lot of that is related to connecting traffic or huge metropolitan cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.”

Seaney said the merger between Tempe-based US Airways and American Airlines would not help the situation, as the Dallas-based carrier prefers to begin overseas flights from airports like LA, Miami and Dallas.

However, Sky Harbor spokeswoman Deb Ostreicher said she has spoken to airlines about adding more overseas flights to the airport’s repertoire.

“There’s no way to know for sure,” she said. “We have about 40 people per day flying back and forth to Frankfurt, and on a large overseas aircraft with 200 seats, that can’t justify a flight at this time.

“But as we look at the connections, how many people might fly to Frankfurt and connect to other European cities, that adds another 50 or 60 people a day.”

Ostreicher said airlines base their overseas routes on the amount of people with disposable income flying to another nation, which is why a smaller airport, such as San Diego, offers nonstop service to Tokyo.

KTAR’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report.