The grass is greener, flowers are in bloom and airplanes are full of travelers seeking warmer temperatures.
The surest signs of spring are apparent in Phoenix, where March is the busiest month for passenger traffic at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Nationwide, travelers are packing airports for spring break and spring training. The Transportation Security Administration screened 1.9 million to 2.6 million passengers each day in March so far, more than in March 2022.
March was the busiest month at Sky Harbor in each of the last 10 years except for 2020 and 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted travel. Phoenix welcomed 4.2 million passengers in March 2022, up from the pandemic years but down from 4.5 million in March 2019.
As airport officials in Phoenix expect traffic to continue trending upward, here are ways for winter visitors and local residents to get through the airport a little easier.
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Why is March so busy at the Phoenix airport?
Passenger traffic at Sky Harbor peaks in March because of spring break and a variety of sporting events. Phoenix is a popular spring break destination for winter-weary travelers.
March also brings MLB spring training to ballparks throughout metro Phoenix, as well as the NASCAR Cup Series race, United Rentals Work United 500, which was held March 12 at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale.
The launch of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour on March 17 and 18 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale also drew visitors, as high room rates and limited availability greeted fans seeking hotels near the venue. Fans posted on social media about wearing parts of their outfits at the airport to avoid paying bag fees.
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How early should spring break travelers arrive at Sky Harbor Airport?
Arrive at least two hours before your flight if flying domestically and at least three hours before if flying internationally, Sky Harbor spokeswoman Tamra Ingersoll said.
“We will be busy in March, and it is imperative that travelers give themselves enough time,” she said.
Check traffic before you head out: Roadways are busier than usual this time of year and construction on Interstate 10 and State Route 143 near the airport might disrupt your normal route. Get updates from the Arizona Department of Transportation at https://www.az511.com or at https://twitter.com/ArizonaDOT.
How long is the TSA wait at the Phoenix airport?
High traveler volumes may increase your wait time at security checkpoints. You can check real-time security waits at https://www.skyharbor.com.
Ingersoll recommended fliers use the free PHX Reserve service to save a place in the TSA line and show up at their chosen time. To make a reservation, go to https://phx.whyline.com. Flyers can reserve a spot up to six days in advance.
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How much is parking at the Phoenix airport?
Here’s what you’ll pay to park at Sky Harbor Airport:
- Garages at the terminals cost $30 per day.
- Three economy garages, one on the airport’s west side and two on the east side, charge $16 per day.
- The 24th Street Station lot on the west side and an economy surface lot on the east side cost $14 per day and you can ride the free PHX Sky Train to your terminal.
- An economy “park and walk” lot that offers no transportation to the terminals is $9 per day.
Passengers can reserve parking up to six months before their flight. Go to https://www.skyharbor.com.
If you didn’t make a reservation, use Sky Harbor’s Find a Spot tool at apps.skyharbor.com/findaspot before you head to the airport. It shows parking availability and pricing near your terminal.
Off-site parking is available through companies like PreFlight Airport Parking and the Parking Spot. They offer covered and uncovered parking plus shuttle service to and from the terminals.
PreFlight’s rates start at $14.75 per day for an uncovered spot. The Parking Spot’s rates vary based on demand, starting at $16.50 per day for uncovered self-parking.
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What can you take through security?
Anything considered a liquid or gel can fly in checked luggage. Quantities greater than 3 ounces can’t fly in carry-on bags. These include peanut butter, jams and jellies, oils and vinegars, hummus, ice cream, sauces and dressings, bottled water and alcoholic beverages.
Items like cakes, pies and solid cheeses can fly in carry-on bags, but ultimately, it’s up to the TSA screener if an item can pass. When in doubt, pack an item in your checked luggage. For a complete list of foods and drinks and whether you can travel with them, visit https://www.tsa.gov.
Travelers should check their bags and purses for any prohibited items, Ingersoll said. The TSA’s What Can I Bring page has a full list of what can and can’t be packed.
For instance, those little souvenir baseball bats from spring training games must go in checked luggage, she said. They can’t be carried on because they could be used as weapons, according to the TSA.
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Reach the reporter at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @salerno_phx.
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