- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Sky Harbor International Airport showed solid signs of recovery in 2014 after being a laggard among U.S. airports in rebounding from a decline in traffic during the Great Recession.

The passenger count in 2014 at the Phoenix airport rose by 4.4 percent, finishing just short of its 2007 tally of nearly 42.2 million. The count had dropped to 37.8 million in 2009, the Arizona Republic (https://goo.gl/GEGF7Y ) reported Monday.

The totals include arriving and departing travelers, so a person making a round-trip would count as two passengers.

Arizona’s economic recovery in general has been slower than other parts of the country, with the state’s job growth showing solid strength only recently.

Arizona State University economist Lee McPheters said employment gains result in more people traveling.

“Even though wages are not up, employment is up,” said McPheters, director of the JP Morgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. “That has the effect of loosening up the purse strings for people who are either traveling for tourism or personal reasons or, of course, for business reasons.”

Chad Makovsky, assistant aviation director for Phoenix, said passenger growth at city-owned Sky Harbor and other airports indicates that consumer confidence and travel demand are back.

“Customers seem to be tolerating the ancillary fees and what have you,” he said. “They’re starting to have confidence in the market and they’re starting to fly again.”

Sky Harbor already had a busy January and early February due to the NFL’s Pro Bowl, Super Bowl and Phoenix Open golf tournament.

“Our January is going to be through the roof,” Makovsky said.

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