Madisonians seeking Southwestern sunshine next winter will have another option for getting to it.
American Airlines will add daily direct service from Madison to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport starting Jan. 6, the Dane County Regional Airport announced Tuesday.
American isn’t the only airline to jump on the route. Last month, Frontier announced it will have two non-stop flights to Phoenix per week starting in November.
Adding more destinations and services to an airport is seen by local officials as a bellwether of the region’s prosperity.
“American Airlines’ partnership to bring new non-stop options to our airport is a testament to our vibrant community and growing economy,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement. “Non-stop destinations like this are great for local residents looking for a getaway to the Southwest, as well as (for) business travelers.”
In the past two years, the Dane County airport has added flights to eight destinations, according to spokesman Brent Kyzer-McHenry, and passenger traffic is up 9 percent in the first seven months of this year compared to the same period in 2017.
Phoenix has been one of the most frequently requested destinations from airport users, so adding Arizona’s capital is an exciting opportunity to broaden the airport’s offerings, he said.
Another popular destination request was Las Vegas, he said. The airport added a direct route last summer.
Airport officials regularly meet with airline officials to promote the routes they see as important to Madison, but whether to add flights is “ultimately up to the airlines,” according to Kyzer-McHenry.
When it comes to adding new routes, the airport uses federal Department of Transportation data to analyze where Madison passengers are flying.
In 2017, the top 25 destinations, in order of popularity, were: Denver; New York City (LaGuardia); Atlanta; Washington D.C. (Reagan); Orlando; Dallas-Fort Worth; Las Vegas; Newark; Boston; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Phoenix; Detroit; Seattle; San Diego; Minneapolis; Charlotte; Philadelphia; Portland, Oregon; Baltimore; Salt Lake City; Tampa; Austin, Texas; Fort Myers, Florida; and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Fifteen of those, including the top eight, are destinations for which Dane County offers a direct-service route.
Kyzer-McHenry cautioned against using the list to speculate about new routes because when adding flights, airlines consider where their already-existing hubs are located.
“Just because it’s on the list doesn’t mean we’re necessarily asking for it,” he said.
Tickets are now on sale for American flights leaving Madison at 7:25 a.m. and arriving in Phoenix at 10 a.m. Mountain time, and leaving Phoenix at 7:40 p.m. and arriving in Madison at 11:55 p.m. local time.