Booking a hotel room for Super Bowl 2023 is difficult — and pricey — already but fans hoping to come to Arizona for the big game are not having as hard a time finding flights right now.
Of course, it’s not known yet which teams will be playing on Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. But airlines and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are prepping for the expected spike in air travel.
American Airlines aimed to get ahead of the demand by increasing the number of flights to and from Phoenix from Feb. 9-14, citing the Super Bowl as well as the WM Phoenix Open golf tournament happening in Scottsdale the same week.
But as always, the longer travelers wait to book their flights, the greater the chances their preferred itineraries will skyrocket in price or sell out. (Pro tip: Reserve your rental car well in advance too.)
Here’s what to know if you’re thinking of flying to Phoenix for Super Bowl 2023.
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American Airlines adds Super Bowl flights to Phoenix
With a large number of people expected to descend on metro Phoenix for the Super Bowl as well as the WM Phoenix Open golf tournament Feb. 6-12 at TPC Scottsdale, the airline responsible for about 40% of Sky Harbor’s flight capacity increased its service in the leadup to the big game.
In November, American Airlines said it would add 91 flights between Phoenix and 22 U.S. cities Feb. 9-14 to accommodate the forecasted surge in passenger traffic.
Jason Reisinger, the airline’s managing director of global network planning, cited the Super Bowl and the Phoenix Open in the announcement.
“Whether you want to cheer on your favorite team as they score a touchdown or go wild as your preferred golfer hits a hole-in-one on the 16th hole, American Airlines is offering sports fans, more flights and more seats to see the action in person,” he said. “We’re excited to have football and golf fans travel to our Phoenix hub and experience everything the Valley of the Sun has to offer.”
Southwest Airlines, Sky Harbor’s second-biggest carrier after American, did not immediately follow suit, airline spokesman Dan Landson told The Arizona Republic. But he hinted at a future possibility.
“Feel free to check back closer to the big game,” he said.
In the leadup to the 2015 Super Bowl, the last time the game was played in Arizona, several airlines added flights to Phoenix in mid-January to accommodate increased demand.
Taken together, American and Southwest represent more than 70% of all flights at Sky Harbor, according to the airport’s staff.
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How can flyers save money on Super Bowl flights?
Booking early to get the best fares and routes is advised for fans who know they want to come no matter who’s playing. Just make sure you understand your airline’s cancellation and rescheduling policies.
Travelers can’t typically get refunds for flights they choose not to take; travel credits for future flights are usually offered unless a fully refundable ticket was purchased. Refunds aren’t typically offered on less expensive fares.
American Airlines and some online travel agencies like Expedia offer refunds for flights within 24 hours of booking.
Southwest Airlines offers cash refunds for flights booked under its Business Select and Anytime fares. The lowest priced fare tier, Wanna Get Away, is nonrefundable but travelers can receive a credit for a future flight equal to what they paid.
When booking with a travel agency or travel website such as Expedia or Priceline, travelers must request refunds through the agency and not the airline. Travel agencies are only required to give refunds when service cannot be performed, for example if an airline cancels or changes a flight.
Another way to save money on your ticket is to fly during days and times that are in less demand, said Naomi Hahn, vice president of strategy and operations with Skyscanner, a UK-based airfare tracker.
“If you have to travel to a certain destination, think about whether or not you can travel kind of away from the peak days,” she said. “If you want to go the day before and then fly back the day after when there’s a lot of people trying to do the same thing, the pricing might be higher.”
Hahn also suggests being open to flights with layovers in one or two cities, as well as mixing and matching flights with different airlines and even flights from different airports, to save money.
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These teams are Super Bowl frontrunners. Here’s the flight availability
Right now, the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among the teams with a shot to make it to Super Bowl 2023. Here’s what fans in those cities may expect to pay to fly to Arizona in February.
Buffalo, New York: Southwest is the only airline that offers nonstop service to Sky Harbor Airport, and it only does so on Saturdays. Nonstops to Phoenix are $249 one way on Feb. 4 and $438 one-way on Feb. 11. For those who don’t have to head back right away, the current one-way fare for a Feb. 18 nonstop to Buffalo is $706. That’s less than most of Southwest’s Phoenix-Buffalo flights on Feb. 13, the day after the Super Bowl, which range from $720 to $810 one way.
Frontier Airlines currently offers the lowest round-trip fares for a Feb. 9-14 trip, starting at about $283. But both legs of the itinerary include a layover in Orlando, Florida. And on Frontier you’ll pay extra for everything from seat assignments to carryon and checked luggage.
Kansas City, Missouri: American, Southwest and Frontier offer nonstop service to Phoenix. Southwest currently offers the least expensive nonstops, with itineraries as low as $468 round trip for Feb. 9-14. Travelers comfortable with nonstops with layovers could fly for as low as $177 via an itinerary found on Skyscanner that includes a nonstop with Frontier to Phoenix, followed by either a Spirit or Frontier flight with a layover in Las Vegas back to Kansas City. The catch: The layover may require a next-day flight.
Philadelphia: Skyscanner compared Frontier nonstop routes with layover routes and found that flyers could save $120 to $140 on flights between Phoenix and Philadelphia from Feb. 9-14. One itinerary with a layover in Las Vegas cost $241 round trip; another, with a layover in Atlanta, cost $261 round trip. The cheapest all-nonstop round-trip itinerary found was $382.
Minneapolis: Skyscanner’s tracking showed Minneapolis was one of the few cities with at least one airline offering nonstop service to Phoenix for less than $300 roundtrip from Feb. 9-14. But the best fares were found, as Hahn suggested, by mixing and matching airlines and airports. One itinerary that starts with an Allegiant Air flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and concludes with a Sun Country Airlines flight from Sky Harbor back to Minneapolis, is $209. Sun Country offered the cheapest nonstop itinerary without a change in airports, going to and returning from Sky Harbor at $237.
Tampa: Mixed and matched itineraries again yielded the best deals. One itinerary starts with an Allegiant Air flight from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, with the return flight aboard Frontier from Sky Harbor to Tampa International Airport. The itinerary costs $204 round trip.
That’s a savings of $667 off the cheapest nonstop flight Skyscanner found between Tampa and Phoenix, an American Airlines flight that currently costs $871 round trip. Southwest, whose fares are not published on fare tracking websites, advertised a Tampa-Phoenix nonstop at about $624 round trip.
New airlines, new flights:Travelers have more options than ever from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Reach the reporter at Michael.Salerno@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salerno_phx.
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