Phoenix airport traffic plunged 13% in November

Passenger traffic at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix plunged nearly 13% in November due to the weak economy and dramatic flight cutbacks by airlines.

The total passenger count was 2.96 million, down from 3.4 million in November 2007. Year to date through November, traffic was off 5.7%, to 36.7 million passengers. Travelers are counted coming and going, so a round-trip flight counts as two passengers.

The airline's top two tenants, US Airways and Southwest, saw passenger totals fall 11% and 13%, respectively, in November. Together, they carry three out of four of the airport's passengers.

Other major airlines with big declines in Phoenix in November: Delta, -21%; Alaska, -19% ; United and Northwest, each down 18%; and American, -15%.

The only airlines showing increases: WestJet, up 27%; Frontier, up 12.7% and Hawaiian, +1.5%.

Major airlines announced significant flight cutbacks over the summer as they grappled with soaring fuel prices. Most of the shrinking began after Labor Day.

In Phoenix, most of the cuts involved a reduction in the frequency of flights between cities, such as Phoenix to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, rather than elimination of routes. Some nonstop flights are gone, though, including Phoenix-Hartford, Conn.

Fuel prices have plunged since then, but the airlines haven't reinstated flights because the poor economy has hurt travel demand.

In fact, many are still shrinking. US Airways said in a securities filing this week that it plans to reduce its U.S. seat capacity by 8 to 10% this year.

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