Super Bowl XLIX banners decorated Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Photo courtesy of City of Phoenix - Aviation Department.
This year, the nation’s most-watched sporting event was held on Sunday, Feb. 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., near Phoenix. In addition to the Super Bowl, the Phoenix area was also hosting the Phoenix Open during the same weekend.
With 100,000 visitors to the Phoenix area for Super Bowl XLIX, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport saw a 60% increase in traffic as well as a 50% rise in car rentals, according to the Sky Harbor Public Information Office.
Visitors arrived between Thursday Jan. 29 and Saturday Jan. 31, but the Monday after the Super Bowl was the airport’s busiest day. According to Heather Lissner, public information manager for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, the airport processed 180,000 passengers on Feb. 2 — an average day has around 110,000 passengers.
During the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, airport rental car rates were up $60.98 and $53.93 from last year, respectively, according to rate quote data provided by The Tennant Group and Rate-Highway. By the week of Feb. 7, however, average rental rates were only $4.40 more than the year previous.
“Rates have been a roller coaster for the past couple of weeks,” said Cole Randall, owner of Scottsdale-based High Life Auto Rental, on Jan. 28. “Two weeks ago, rates were $250 per day, but now I believe the rental car companies overestimated the number of rentals they were going to need. Rates have now come down to around $75 per day.”
From the majors to independents, local rental car companies — the majority near the airport — anticipated an increase in vehicle rentals during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
Fox Rent-A-Car’s Phoenix location added more staff to handle the increased reservations. “It can be challenging dealing with the amount of customers and first-time visitors to the area,” says Walter Butler, general manager of Fox, which is located in a consolidated rental car facility near the Phoenix Airport. “We wanted to make the experience as positive and pleasing to the customer as possible.”
To expand its selection of luxury rentals, Beverly Hills Rent-a-Car of Scottsdale borrowed some of its popular vehicles from the company’s branches in California and Nevada, including Ferrari, Lamborghini and Mercedes SUVs.
Sold out by the beginning of January, Silvercar Phoenix created a wait list in case there were any cancellations or more cars become available. “We have more reservations from people coming in from Seattle than Boston, but aside from that no big trends to report,” said Jon Judd, general manager.
As of Friday Jan. 23, Fox Rent-A-Car only had a few vehicles left to rent, representing a 60% increase in business. Most of the early reservations came from the Northeast.
By offering to deliver its accessible vans to its Super Bowl customers, Tammy Smith of Wheelers Accessible Van Rentals said the company experienced a significant growth in early reservations.
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport had Super Bowl merchandise on sale for travelers. Photo courtesy of City of Phoenix - Aviation Department.
For Silvercar, the rental process went smoothly, especially since the location added six concierges for two weeks leading up to the big game. To Judd, his biggest surprise was seeing how many pro football players rented Silvercar’s Audi A4s.
Sixt’s increase in business wasn’t limited to only its Phoenix location; nearby franchises in San Diego and Las Vegas also had more business since they are within a reasonable driving distance from Phoenix, according to Craig Olson, Sixt’s executive vice president of North America franchise development.
To meet the upcoming seasonal demand in the Phoenix area, rental companies like Silvercar and Fox are planning to hold onto the additional vehicles instead of de-fleeting.
“Super Bowl really served as a kick-start for us to the beginning of spring training and the increase of visitors to Arizona during the winter and spring months,” said Lisa Martini of Enterprise Rent-A-Car.