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Phoenix airport recorded busiest day ever last Super Bowl. Will Vegas?

When Super Bowl 57 was played in Glendale, Arizona last year, the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had the busiest day in its history the day after the big game when fans from across the country hopped on planes to go home.

Officials at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas expect a really busy day on Feb. 12, the day after Super Bowl Sunday at Allegiant Stadium – but are hedging their bets on whether it will be the busiest day ever.

That’s even though the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates 330,000 people will be in the city for Super Bowl Sunday. Normally, about half the city’s visitors arrive by plane.

“Super Bowl (57) set records across the city of Phoenix, and that could not be more evident than at our airport,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement at the time. “I couldn’t be more proud of the work that went in to preparing for these record-breaking numbers.”

The 200,000 passengers that passed through Sky Harbor’s gates that day were 20,000 more than officials expected, 25,ooo more than the last time State Farm Stadium hosted the Super Bowl in 2015 and 80,000 more than on an average day at the airport.

But Las Vegas is a different animal. It’s never hosted a Super Bowl, even though sports fans regularly pack the city and enjoy fan parties at resorts across the city that weekend.

Reid offered no comparisons of the busiest days it’s ever had, but monthly passenger averages suggest it won’t come close to the Phoenix record, which was supplemented by that Monday being the day after the end of the PGA’s WM Phoenix Open, the professional golf tournament at TPC Scottsdale.

Reid’s busiest month in 2023 was October when the daily average was 176,771 passengers. In November, the month of the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix, the average daily passenger count was 161,314. The daily average last February was 149,180.

Super Bowl lineup could impact visitor count

Airport officials say they have received no indication that any airline is planning extra flights or switching aircraft for larger capacity ones on the days surrounding the Super Bowl.

That could change after Sunday when the two NFL competitors for the Super Bowl will be known after the AFC Championship game pitting the Kansas City Chiefs at the Baltimore Ravens and the NFC Championship where the San Francisco 49ers will host the Detroit Lions.

Some tourism leaders may secretly be hoping the 49ers prevail, since San Francisco is Las Vegas’ No. 2 visitor feeder market behind Los Angeles.

Regardless of who wins Sunday’s games, airport officials say they’re ready for the big crowds going home Monday. And, like last year’s golf tournament in suburban Phoenix, Las Vegas will have its own going-home crowd for a golf event.

LIV Golf will have its first tournament of the 2024 season at Las Vegas Country Club Feb. 8-10, finishing up the day before the Super Bowl.

“We are expecting the busiest day to be Monday, Feb. 12, for departures with Sunday night through Tuesday expected to be busy as well,” Reid International spokeswoman Heidi Hayes said.

The airport is using a campaign similar to what it used for Formula One in November – 4-3-2-1: The Winning Game Plan.

That reminder suggests planning a trip to the airport four hours before flight time, arriving at the airport to check bags three hours before departure, getting in the Transportation Security Administration passenger checkpoint line two hours before departure and arriving at the gate and being ready to board a plane one hour before.

Visitor spending to be huge

All of those visitors mean a lot of money will be spent, adding up to a significant economic impact from the Super Bowl. How large of an impact has been a moving target.

The earliest estimates were that the game would produce a $600 million impact on the region – by all accounts, a conservative guess. But Jeremy Aguero, principal of Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis, said its revised look pegs the amount at between $700 million and $900 million, a figure Aguero thinks will be beaten.

“I think we’re going to beat that number based on what we’ve seen so far,” he said. “More events (have been scheduled) and room rates are a little higher than we anticipated.”

He said it’s difficult to compare the economic impact of the Super Bowl with Formula One because there were millions of dollars of invested infrastructure going toward F1 with a $500 million paddock facility built.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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