America West Airlines is still the hometown airline, but it’s no longer the plane of choice for the Phoenix Suns.
Even though the team plays in America West Arena, Suns officials inked a long-term marketing deal with low-fare archrival Southwest to be its official airline.
Under terms of the multiyear agreement, Dallas-based Southwest will be the exclusive airline partner for all Suns-related media, including television, cable and radio broadcasts.
In addition, Southwest will be featured on outdoor billboards and on the team’s Web site and will participate in game media promotions as well as community relations events and projects with the Suns.
The news was met with the sound of a clanked threepointer at Tempe -based America West, the team’s official airline since 1992 when the arena opened.
"This is a very difficult decision for us," spokeswoman Janice Monahan said about not renewing the sponsorship. "In this economic environment, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions and this is one of them. While we would have preferred for this particular relationship to continue, America West’s name is still associated with the arena and that enables us to continue to have an association with the Suns."
America West will still pay naming rights at the arena until 2020. Monahan would not say how much the annual payments are.
While Southwest has been a Suns television sponsor for more than a decade, the deal expands Southwest’s role.