Sky Harbor International Airport, 3400 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. (www.phxskyharbor.com; tel. 602/273-3300), is just a few minutes from downtown Phoenix, 20 minutes from Scottsdale. There are three terminals; running west to east, they are 2, 3, and 4. (Terminal 1 is gone.) Four, the newest, is a major hub for Southwest and American and has the best restaurants (including satellite versions of local favorites) and shops. Sky Harbor has a rep as a friendly airport, and it is. One warning: After scores of visits to the airport, I can say with certainty that the Wi-Fi service, by Boingo, is glitchy and can hijack your phone (and not send important texts and e-mails).
A sleek automated people mover, the SkyTrain ferries passengers from the terminals to long-term parking and a passenger drop-off station at 44th and Washington streets. That last is supposed to save people from having to negotiate the airport proper to drop off passengers. But SkyTrain is poorly designed, and there’s an awful lot of walking involved. If you’re traveling with kids, lots of baggage, or seniors, opt for being dropped off at your terminal. An extension that will take the SkyTrain to the big car-rental facility west of the airport is scheduled to open in 2020.
There are two entrances to Sky Harbor, east and west. The west entrance is convenient to downtown Phoenix and points west; it’s accessed by I-10 or 24th Street. Scottsdale and points northeast and southeast use the east entrance via the Hohokam Expressway (Ariz. 143), the Red Mountain Freeway (Ariz. 202), or 44th Street. The routing at Sky Harbor is complex and signage is hit-or-miss. If you’re driving in or out, remember that 24th Street is the west entrance (for downtown Phoenix) and 44th Street the east entrance (for Scottsdale). Keep an eye out for the sometimes hard-to-find signs and you should end up where you want to be.
There is also now an alternative airport on the east side of the Valley. The Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, 6033 S. Sossaman Rd., Mesa (http://www.gatewayairport.com; tel. 480/988-7600) is served by Allegiant Airlines (www.allegiantair.com; tel. 702/505-8888), which has service from small cities in the Northwest and Midwest. Mesa is a southeast suburb, south of the Ariz. 202 Loop at the Power Road exit.
From the Airport to Your Lodgings
SuperShuttle (www.supershuttle.com; tel. 800/258-3826 or 602/244-9000) offers 24-hour door-to-door van service between Sky Harbor Airport and resorts, hotels, and homes throughout the Valley. Per-person shared-ride fares average $12 to $14 to the downtown and Tempe area, $16 to downtown Scottsdale, and $24 to $31 to north Scottsdale.
Taxis can be found outside all three terminals and cost only slightly more than shuttle vans. You can also call AAA/Yellow Cab (tel. 602/888-8888), Apache Taxi (tel. 480/557-7000), or Mayflower Cab (www.discountcab.com; tel. 602/955-1355). All taxis from the airport charge $5 for turning on the meter, $2.30 per mile, and a minimum fare of $15. Traffic delays are $23 an hour. There’s a flat fee of $17 to downtown Phoenix. A taxi from the airport to central Scottsdale is $30 and up in light traffic.
Both Uber and Lyft operate in the Valley; there’s a big savings over cab rates, but the drivers don’t know the city as well as professional cabbies.
Valley Metro Rail (www.valleymetro.org; tel. 602/253-5000), generally referred to as “the light rail,” is a key part of the city’s transformation. The airport is at the middle of a single 25-mile-long route running from northwest Phoenix to downtown, and then east past the airport to Tempe and Mesa. Metro runs daily every 12 to 20 minutes, between about 5am and 11pm (until 1:40am on weekends). At Sky Harbor, the SkyTrain will take you to the light-rail station at the corner of Washington and 44th streets. The ride to or from downtown or Tempe takes about 15 minutes and costs $2. There is no light rail service to Scottsdale. The Valley has an extensive bus system but it’s not designed to serve the airport; for the record, the 1, 13, 32, and 44 lines will get you there.
Phoenix is connected to Los Angeles and Tucson by I-10 and to Flagstaff via I-17. If you’re headed to the resorts in north Scottsdale, the easiest route is to take the Red Mountain Freeway (Ariz. 202) east to U.S. 101 N. (If you’re headed to central Scottsdale from the airport, you might ask the driver to take McDowell Road east through the beautiful Papago Buttes.) The Superstition Freeway (U.S. 60) leads east to Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler.
Time was a train trip from LA to Chicago took you through Phoenix; no more. Today there is no Amtrak service to Phoenix. If you’re tied to the magic of travel by rail, take Amtrak (www.amtrak.com; tel. 800/872-7245) to Tucson or Flagstaff and make your way to Phoenix via Arizona Shuttle (www.arizonashuttle.com; tel. 877/226-8060 or 928/226-8060). There is a closer stop to Phoenix, in the far south community of Maricopa, but you’ll then have to take your chances on a 45-minute drive with Uber or Lyft.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.