Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport: New restaurants and amenities – The Arizona Republic

Throngs of travelers brave the sizzling arid air, spotting a desert landscape dotted with saguaro cactus, on the way to their destination.
But this isn’t a hike up one of Arizona’s buttes. It’s how some passengers find their gates at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Soon, that will be a thing of the past.
Staff members at the east Mesa airport continue to enhance the experience of flying in and out of the airport.
Beyond adding restaurants, a new security lane and a taller, more efficient air traffic control tower, a significant improvement involves enclosing open-air spaces such as an outdoor common area that separates the terminal building from passenger gates housed in portable buildings.
“Our goal is to make it easy and convenient while still affordable for people to fly out of Gateway Airport,” said Ryan Smith, spokesman for the airport. “All these improvements help to make it even better.”
Setting records:Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport’s passenger traffic is higher than ever
Travelers will soon see improvements in the way they navigate Gateway Airport when the area between the terminal building and four gates housed in temporary buildings that date to 2007 is enclosed, Smith said.
“When the airport first started growing, the best solution was to bring in a few portable buildings,” he said. “We phased our growth, but we were growing so fast, we couldn’t break down our temporary buildings until now.”
An area between ticketing and the security checkpoints will be enclosed as well, he said.
Smith expects the work will be completed by the end of the year.
Travelers already notice efficiencies in getting through Gateway Airport because a sixth security line was added about two months ago to address the growing passenger traffic.
“We were at five (lines) for the last two years,” Smith said.
The terminal improvements are expected to cost $25 million. Airport staff applied for grant funding under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to help with part of the cost, Smith said.
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, whom airport staff credits as instrumental in advancing the work in part with her support of the infrastructure act, stated on Facebook that the terminal upgrade is “much-needed.”
Exclusive: What Gateway Airport’s future gates might look like
Safety improvements at Gateway Airport will come with a new, $30 million air traffic control tower, expected to go live this summer.
Standing 190 feet tall, it’s 70 feet taller than the existing control tower and can fit eight air traffic controllers and a manager, Smith said. Each window in the cabin where the controllers work cost $35,000.
“It will allow air traffic controllers to manage airspace more efficiently, see the airspace higher and improve safety,” Smith said.
The new tower augments the airport’s growth through broader management of the surrounding airspace. It’s large enough to accommodate about 20 years of the airport’s expected growth, Smith said.
Air traffic controllers at Gateway Airport direct more than just commercial planes. At any given moment, they may guide military aircraft like the Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter or student pilots from nearby flight schools, he said.
Exclusive: Why Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport getting a new air traffic control tower is a big deal
Before the COVID-19 pandemic upended America’s tourism industry, Gateway Airport added new restaurants and shops for people waiting for their flights, Smith said.
These included O.H.S.O. Brewery, Saguaro Mercantile and a TripAdvisor-branded store selling items like travel pillows and bottled drinks.
Now, with current and upcoming passenger growth in mind, more restaurants are on the way.
In November 2020, Mesa-based Kind Hospitality, Gateway Airport’s food and beverage contractor, opened a Panera Bread location at the airport for to-go sandwiches and soups.
Two more dining options are expected to arrive by the fall, Smith said: Macayo’s Mexican Food, the landmark Arizona restaurant; and Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters, which has locations in Tempe and Queen Creek.
Macayo’s and Infusion will replace the Copper Plate Restaurant and Bar, once one of the airport’s only dining options.
Where to eat: Step back in time at some of the oldest restaurants in metro Phoenix
Gateway Airport staff members don’t expect to slow down amid residential growth in the East Valley region: the nearby master-planned SkyBridge project comprising industrial, hotel and restaurant space; and increasing passenger traffic that continues to set records.
Plans include a new terminal on the east side of the airport, which Smith estimated would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Eventually, airport staff members want to attract a legacy carrier like Delta Airlines or United Airlines with a daily route that could attract business travelers.
“If we were able to get a daily business flight, it would allow business travelers to use the East Valley,” said Brian O’Neill, the airport’s executive director. “It would be a game changer for the East Valley and greater Phoenix.”
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport history: From WWII pilot training to vacation getaways
Reach consumer travel reporter Michael Salerno at


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