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Phoenix Sky Harbor witnesses sharp decline in traffic amid coronavirus

PHOENIX — Foot traffic at Sky Harbor International Airport came to a halt in March as the coronavirus outbreak grew and models project it may take years for a return to normalcy.

Krishna Patel, a spokesperson for Sky Harbor, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the airport witnessed a 47% decrease in foot traffic during March when compared to a year ago.

“It started out strong this year, but we saw mid-March that it kind of dropped due to COVID-19,” she said.

March is one of the airport’s busiest months of the year, according to Patel, as 4.52 million people traveled through Sky Harbor in 2019.

That number dropped significantly to nearly 2.4 million passengers in March 2020 after Major League Baseball’s Spring Training and other events were canceled because of the outbreak.

Patel says all airlines are reporting decreased numbers, with American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, Sky Harbor’s two largest airlines, suffering close to a 50% drop in passenger numbers.

It is estimated that numbers will be much worse in April, as the virus took full effect with travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders across the country.

“We are estimating that April is probably going to see an 85%-90% down from last year’s numbers,” Patel said. 

She says it may take years for the airport passenger numbers to return to normal, with airport projections not expecting travel to bounce back to 2019 numbers until 2023.

The decrease in traffic has also forced many restaurants and shops in the airport to close, according to Patel.

She did say, however, that some remain open for takeout and the goal is to have at least one pre-security restaurant open.

Patel is advising people to check with their airline before heading out and practice social distancing while at Sky Harbor.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report. 

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