[Source: Dawn Gilbertson, Arizona Republic] — Airline flight cuts and higher airfares this fall will bring fewer visitors to Arizona, delivering a punishing one-two punch to the state’s limping economy. In Phoenix, more than 1 of 10 flights are gone from a year ago. Nearly 70 daily departures have disappeared from Sky Harbor International Airport’s schedule, the equivalent of losing service from almost every major airline except US Airways and Southwest.
Fewer seats for sale means airlines can charge more. Tickets for Phoenix flights departing in October are up an average 28 percent from a year ago, according to Farecast.live.com. Flights to Boston and Chicago are each up 50 percent. In a tourism hotbed where the majority of visitors arrive by plane, fewer flights and higher fares mean fewer customers for hotels, restaurants, spas, and golf courses. At risk: A substantial slice of $19 billion in annual visitor spending in Arizona. This comes after months of reduced numbers in hotel occupancy and airport traffic as people struggle with a plunging stock market, the housing meltdown and other economic woes. “We know we’re in for a period of some rough times,” said Steve Moore, chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Ron Sanzone, Arizona Republic] — Though generally supportive of light rail, business leaders still have lingering questions about service and construction. At a monthly downtown coffee Tuesday hosted by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, about 150 business leaders expressed both support and concern for the $1.4 billion project. It is to bring the first 20 miles of light rail to the Valley later this year. The project has generated support from public transportation advocates, as well as criticism from business owners who complain that their bottom line has been hurt by construction near their shops and offices.
Members of the largely supportive audience asked Gordon and Metro light rail CEO Rick Simonetta why the train was not running directly to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and why roads have been blocked for light-rail work when none was being done. Gordon and Simonetta said that the trains are not going to the airport because people using light rail to travel to work would not want to suffer the hassle of additional stops at Sky Harbor. They also said that light rail plans to build a light-rail station near the airport with a connecting people mover.
Concerning construction, the mayor and CEO conceded that because of the size of the project, officials had made some errors and a few of the inconveniences that have made business owners and residents grumble were avoidable. Gordon said that the city has learned which contractors are good and which are not. “We have learned some things,” Simonetta said. “We need to be much more accessible…we’re going to be out of your way very soon.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]