Culture News

Phoenix Sky Harbor Named America's Best Airport — Here's Why

Let’s go ahead and just do it: Add “best airport in the country” to the ever-growing list of reasons why Phoenix beats the heck out of so many other cities in America. We suck at not voting monsters into higher office and we pay our schoolteachers badly, but, hey! According to, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport is the best in the country.

We’ll take it.

Fortunately, there was no swimsuit competition, since Terminal 3 is currently undergoing a messy renovation. But Sky Harbor ranked high in several other categories.

According to an examination of the 30 busiest airports that included scores from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, J.D. Power, Google Maps, and travel clearing house, we snagged top marks in having the shortest commute from downtown. Our bargain basement parking fees and light rail access were also big favorites of the study.

Sky Harbor’s amenities really gave the airport a competitive edge. It ranked third for the most per-capita bars and restaurants. Oodles of free Wi-Fi access scored us extra points, too. Do other air travel hubs offer a Fitness Trail, or one of the country’s largest airport museum programs? No. Not according to this review, anyhow.

“We also have more than 400 volunteer Navigators, easily recognized in their purple jackets,” according to Heather Lissner, the public information manager for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department. “These volunteers provide a friendly and welcoming touch to our customers arriving and departing the airport.” (Its current campaign tags Sky Harbor as Friendliest Airport, but there are no plans to rebrand Sky Harbor, Lissner says.)

What about travel? Oh, that. Sky Harbor apparently excels at getting travelers from Point A to Point B, and scored fifth in the nation for having the fewest flight cancellations.

There’s more good news for those of us who aren’t going anywhere in a plane, but want to buy a bag of trail mix and a $40 T-shirt, or dine at food-court versions of popular local restaurants like Barrio Café and Cowboy Ciao: Many of them are accessible in pre-security areas of the airport. Just try dropping in for dinner at New York’s LaGuardia airport, deemed the worst airport in the country by this same study.

Ha! Take that, Big Apple! We have more fun getting out of town than you ever will!

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela