When searching for cheap flights to or from Phoenix, most travelers will find flights arriving and departing out of the main Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX). But did you know there is another smaller airport in the area? Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA) has some low-cost flight options you may be missing out on.

A Guide to Phoenix Airports

To familiarize yourself with the area and how you can potentially save by choosing a different airport, I’ll go over airline routes and ground transportation options at both Phoenix airports.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport at dawn with light trails

Often named one of the best airports in the country, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is by far the larger of the two options in Phoenix and it’s also the closest to downtown. Landing under 5 miles east of downtown Phoenix means you’ll be centrally located when flying to or from Sky Harbor Airport.

It is one of American Airlines’ hub cities and is used to connect American Airlines flyers from smaller airports along the West Coast to points east. Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) is also one of Southwest Airlines’ largest operations so make sure to compare fares with Southwest when searching for Phoenix flights or you may be missing out on a better price.

Related: How to Fly Southwest Airlines (And Get the Seat You Want)

Budget carriers flying out of Sky Harbor Airport include Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country, and Volaris. None of these ultra-low-cost carriers really focus on Phoenix as a hub city and several routes are flown on a seasonal basis only, but the competition keeps fares low on all airlines. Delta and United sometimes have flash sales on connecting flights to locations throughout the country and internationally in order to grab some of the market share dominated by American and Southwest.

International service out of Phoenix is limited, but you’ll find more options at Sky Harbor Airport (PHX). American Airlines has the majority of international routes, which are primarily to neighboring countries Mexico and Canada. Oneworld partner British Airways offers the only year-round service to Europe with Condor and Eurowings flying seasonal summer service. For most international destinations, you’ll need to make at least one stop when flying from Phoenix.

Sky Harbor Airport is best for trips to downtown Phoenix, Tempe, or to the popular golf resorts in Scottsdale. It’s also the primary airport in the greater Phoenix area and likely the only option for most travelers, because the alternative Mesa Gateway Airport has limited flight options.

PHX is a hub for which airlines?

  • American Airlines
  • Southwest

How much does it cost to get from PHX to downtown Phoenix?

  • Valley Metro Rail: $2
  • Taxi: $25; Lyft/Uber: $15. Fares will vary by distance, surge pricing, and other factors. (tip not included)
  • Shared Van: $14

Sky Harbor Airport is connected to the Valley Metro Rail link at 44th St. and Washington St. via the free PHX Sky Train. Take the Sky Train from Terminal 3 or 4 every 12-20 minutes 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. To access the train from Terminal 2, take the walkway between Terminals 2 and 3. The Valley Metro Rail costs just $2 and operates between 4 am – midnight Monday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, service is available until 2 am and it ends at 11 pm on Sundays. Service starts one hour later at 5 am on Saturday or Sunday. It takes about 20 minutes to reach downtown Phoenix from the 44th st. station.

As one of the most convenient airports in the country, you can take a 10 min. taxi or rideshare app service from Sky Harbor Airport to downtown Phoenix. It will cost more for a taxi so if you want to save some money make sure to download Uber or Lyft and follow signs for “Rideshares” or “App Ride” to find your ride on the arrivals level.

Super Shuttle offers shared ride van service. At $14 per person to downtown Phoenix, it is basically the same price as a private Uber or Lyft so I don’t recommend a Super Shuttle unless your hotel or destination is in another area of town and it will save some money as a solo traveler.

Prefer to drive? Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is located at 3400 E Sky Harbor Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85034.

Related: Which LA Area Airport is Best: LAX, BUR, LGB, SNA, or ONT?

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA) 

phoenix mesa gateway airport

Although not nearly as convenient as Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA) is only around 30 miles southeast of downtown Phoenix and it can be a great airport to use for a cheap flight to the greater Phoenix area. It’s a major hub for Allegiant Airlines, which offers limited nonstop service to and from many smaller airports around the U.S. that may not have service directly into the larger Sky Harbor Airport.

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport can also be a nice way to avoid heavy traffic around the city center if you’re planning to stay in the Chandler or Mesa areas or anywhere in southeast Arizona. Depending on how far south you plan to go, Tucson (TUS) is another airport worth looking into.

For international service, Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier Swoop flies directly into Phoenix-Mesa Airport from a few Canadian cities and WestJet has seasonal service from Calgary (YYC). Otherwise, it primarily serves domestic flights for Allegiant Airlines. Be aware that Allegiant’s flight schedule is very limited with most routes only offered a few times per week. If you can work your schedule around to travel when Allegiant flies, you can sometimes save a lot of time and money by flying into Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA).

Related: How to Avoid Online Booking Fees on Airline Tickets

AZA is a hub for which airlines?

  • Allegiant Airlines

How much does it cost to get from AZA to downtown Phoenix?

  • Bus/Valley Metro Rail: $4
  • Taxi: $90 Lyft/Uber: $30-$35. Fares will vary by distance, surge pricing, and other factors. (tip not included)
  • Shared Van: $53

Although possible, it will take 2 ½ hours or more to travel between Phoenix-Mesa Airport and downtown Phoenix by public transportation. There are a few different combinations of bus/rail you can take. One option is to take bus number 184 to Power Rd. & Albany St., transfer to bus number 30 towards South Mtn CC, and then finally transfer to the Valley Metro Rail at the Sycamore/Main St. Station. The good news it will only cost around $4 and that's assuming you need to pay for two fares due to the multiple transfers.

It’s much more convenient to take a taxi or a rideshare service if you don’t plan to rent a car. Travel time is around 40 minutes between Mesa Airport and downtown Phoenix by road. It’ll cost around $90 for a taxi, but you can really save if you download either Uber or Lyft and call up a ride from your phone for $30-$35 once you arrive. Super Shuttle offers shared ride van service that will bring you door-to-door for less than a taxi, but it will likely be more expensive than Uber or Lyft depending on your final destination.

There are a few other shuttle companies that offer service to/from the Phoenix airports listed on the airport's website. And if you're looking for a shuttle transfer between the two airports, Phoenix Gateway Direct Inter Airport Shuttle advertises one-way transfers as low as $29.

Feel like driving yourself? Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is located at 6033 S. Sossaman Rd., Mesa, AZ 85212.

Related: Which SF Bay Area Airport is Best: SFO, OAK, or SJC?

map of Phoenix airports Sky Harbor International and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway

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Featured image: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
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