Parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is already getting as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey, and it’s going to get more expensive, too.
As if bracing for the busiest travel time of the year next week wasn’t enough for fliers, Phoenix officials are already spreading some bad holiday cheer.
The City Council unanimously approved a proposal Wednesday to raise airport parking rates by 25 percent to 60 percent to deal with overcrowding, particularly in terminal garages that are used too often by long-term parkers.
"The short-term parkers who wanted to pick up their grandmother for an hour weren’t getting a spot, so that impacted customer service," said Lexie Van Haren, airport spokeswoman.
The city did give travelers a small gift this holiday season. The new rates don’t kick in until Jan. 9.
Terminal parking will go to $20 a day, up from $16. Hourly parking in the terminals will rise from $2 to $3. Rates in the economy surface lots will increase from $5 a day to $8, while fees in the economy garages will be hiked from $7 a day to $10.
At other airports of similar size, terminal garages cost $25 or $30 a day, Sky Harbor officials said.
The Thanksgiving rush is gearing up already. The Terminal 4 garage was full at times Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Every month this year we have a had record-breaking passenger numbers," Van Haren said. "That means more and more people are traveling."
The airport’s busiest months tend to be in the summer but the Thanksgiving holiday traditionally features the busiest days because passengers generally leave on Wednesday and return on Sunday.
Sky Harbor plans to open two levels of its new economy garage Sunday, giving drivers 1,171 more parking spaces.
The state’s highways also are expected to be clogged. AAA Arizona reported this week high gas prices will not deter people from driving over Thanksgiving.
Based a survey of more than 1,300 adults, the automobile club estimates 37.29 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this holiday, up 0.8 percent from last year. The numbers are higher in the West where holiday drivers will increase 5 percent this year to more than 7 million while Westerners who fly will increase 1.5 percent to more than 1 million.
While the national and regional numbers are up, requests for maps and trip planners are down about 25 percent from last year, said David Cowley, AAA Arizona spokesman.
"High gas prices aren’t stopping travelers, but maybe they aren’t traveling as far," he said. Arizona gas prices are about 44-cents per gallon higher than last year.
Higher demand also is driving up rental car and hotel room rates, but some travelers found relief with discount airlines, AAA said. The club’s Leisure Travel Index shows Thanksgiving fares down overall.
However, AAA said its doubtful the bargains will last the rest of the year. A comparison of Christmas-Hanukkah-New Year holiday bookings by AAA Arizona shows an average $15 increase over last year.
AAA said the top driving destinations are Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, N.M., Tucson and Denver.
Top flying destinations booked by AAA include Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The club said 83 percent of holiday travelers will rely on their cars to get to their destinations.
Tips for airport parking
• For up-to-the-minute information on parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, call (602) 273-4545.
• Consider alternate ways to get to the airport such as taxis, limousines or SuperShuttle. For a complete list of services and off-site parking, visit phxskyharbor.com and click on parking and transport.
• Drivers picking up passengers can wait in the free Stage & Go parking lot, just west of Terminal 2.