PHOENIX - A business plan that will be in place by year's end is expected to shape how Sky Harbor International Airport executives pitch the area to airlines that don't already have service at the airport and could determine whether residents will have more flight options to more destinations around the world.
Officials at Sky Harbor plan to refocus their efforts to bring new domestic and international routes to the Phoenix area by trying to secure new flights on their two hub carriers, Tempe-based US Airways and Southwest Airlines.
Increased international service at the Phoenix airport has long been a top priority for officials. They believe the city won't be seen as a global leader unless its airport is a big player on an international stage.
"It's extremely important in the way the world perceives Phoenix, Arizona," Deputy Aviation Director David Krietor said. "If Phoenix isn't important enough for these large carriers to provide direct non-stop service, then we won't be perceived as a great city that can attract the business opportunities that we want to attract."
So far, the city's only lasting overseas success has been a daily British Airways flight. Lufthansa operated daily flights from Frankfurt, Germany, to Phoenix, but passenger volume began dropping after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the carrier eliminated the service in early 2003.
Efforts in Mexico and Central America have been more successful but Sky Harbor is still a far cry from other major airports.
Dallas-Fort Worth boasts half a dozen foreign carriers, including Korean Air, Mexicana and Air Canada. Las Vegas McCarran has Japan Airlines, AeroMexico and Philippine Airlines, among others.
City officials believe the new air-service development plan will allow them to be more successful.
"My sort of gut reaction is that we need to have a more-focused approach," acting Aviation Director Danny Murphy said. "And I think we can clearly do a better job of building a business case for what we are doing."
US Airways officials said they are open to discussions on new non-stop international flights to Europe and Mexico but that any new international service at Sky Harbor is a "bit of a ways off" because they don't have the long-range planes that are needed to fly overseas.
"I would definitely say that it is something that we are interested in," said Valerie Wunder of US Airways. "But I can't give a time frame as to when or if it's going to happen."
US Airways has 19 daily flights to 16 cities in 10 countries in Europe, but none flies direct from Sky Harbor.