A Design Shift in Southwest’s New Gates in Phoenix

PHX - Phoenix, Southwest

I took the kids out to Phoenix for a week at “Camp Pop and Grandma” recently, and that gave me an opportunity to check out the newly-opened gates in Phoenix’s Terminal 4. The area is unsurprisingly nice, but I wasn’t expecting to see the design change that they implemented for this eighth and final concourse in the 30+ year old terminal.

When Terminal 4 opened in 1990, it had two concourses on the south side for Southwest and three on the north for America West and international carriers, the latter of which had to use the high B gates where customs and immigration services were available. Here’s a map showing the evolution since that time.

In 1998, the High A gates were opened to allow America West to expand, and more gates were added to the international High B concourse. That completed the terminal on the north side with 14 gates on each concourse. (Additional regional parking spots were reconfigured in later years.)

There used to be a maintenance hangar and other facilities where the D gates are today, but in 2005, the Low D gates were opened for Southwest. Unlike the C concourses which had 10 gates each, D had only 8. By 2005, the airport realized that gates needed more space, so D was actually 50 feet wider than the others. The final concourse, the High D gates, opened this summer.

Up until this concourse was built, all connectors between concourses were narrow glass-sided hallways with two moving walkways to speed people along in each direction. The only connector behind security between the north and south sides was a bridge on the far east going between the high Cs and high Bs.

Now, a new connector has been built to get passengers from near the low As down to the low Ds (in green on the map above). This connector is also now used to shuffle arriving passengers to baggage claim, freeing up more space in the A and D TSA checkpoints.

Low A to Low D connector

This connector actually dumps travelers out just to the west of the low D concourse. A quick jog to the left, and there you are.

Right where the connector comes out is a Peet’s Coffee.

This has a great view of the ramp.

From here, you can keep walking west into the newest concourse connector. This shows a shift in the way the airport has thought about developing its concourse connectors. Instead of utilitarian walkways, Phoenix is now adding real estate to put concessions and lounges. Gone are the moving walkways, replaced by fancy looking floors.

Halfway through the connector, travelers are let out into a large area where they can grab food and hang out.

I should say, travelers WILL be able to do that, but none of the concessions there are open yet. Toward the right in the photo above will be concessions for all to use. To the left is a massive new Chase Sapphire Lounge. I find it amusing to think of a fancy lounge in the Southwest gate area, but this is also easily accessible from American gates.

The concourse itself looks somewhat similar to the low D gates with plenty of room. One difference… the gates themselves include a cool design for the boarding door area.

With the opening of these gates, Terminal 4 is now complete, and it is massive with nearly 100 gates across the 8 concourses. If you have to connect from the high D gates to anything else, get ready to do some walking since the moving walkways are gone there. And if you aren’t in the high D gates, you may find it worthwhile to go check it out anyway, at least the lounges and concessions, once those all open up.

24 comments on “A Design Shift in Southwest’s New Gates in Phoenix

  1. Dumb question… can you explain high gates from low gates? Is that similar to a few gates at LAX terminal 6 where an escalator or elevator are required to reach them. I recall it was 66-69B. For me it’s hard to see the diagram.

  2. With recent significant gate additions in BNA, DEN, and PHX, Southwest continues to build its infrastructure. I also read somewhere that they are also in an aggressive hangar-building plan at several of their hubs.

  3. PHX is one of my fav hub airports or airports in general. Now living here it’s even better. MSP, STL were my other two home town airports over the years so. . ..PHX is a huge improvement. Lots of good food, AA has some great lounges (except High A needs to be tripled in size), and now that terminal 3 (yes we know there are only two) has been finished and the SkyTrain is about to replace buses to the Rental Car Center, PHX is an easy and modern airport for an expanding business community and resort destination.

    The future connects T4 and T3 with 2 or 3 additional concourses. Also, I hope AA and JAL add service to Tokyo. The business community needs it no competition. BA and AA each have a daily flight to LHR and they are VERY popular. PHX is no longer the hub AA should close or just a resort city. Lots going on here and love PHX.

  4. My now-101 year old grandmother (in law) went through a phase where she generously sprinkled “a quick jog” into descriptions of places. Just going to leave that with you, Cranky.

  5. I’m just curious . . . who the heck is going to connect from American to Southwest or visa versa and use the new walkway? Unless either is interested in more gates in PHX? Hmmmmm. Future proofing I suppose.

    Connecting from the far side of D to the far side of C is going to be quite the slog. I’m appreciative of moving walkways for big concourses, but it looks like old D to new D is not as far as D to C. Nice overall pictures.

    1. The B to C connector is needed for SWA inbound international flights as that is the only customs facility in Terminal 4 though I’ve never used it so not sure if that dumps you back into the main terminal or somewhere around the B gates. I’ve heard of some WN passengers on a longer layovers trekking over to use a lounge on the AA side but otherwise the international traffic (WN or otherwise) it probably the only need?

      1. I’ve used the Centurion/Escape lounge in the High Bs as a Southwest passenger. Though that trip was originating in PHX rather than connecting, so it wasn’t quite so out of the way since I went through the B checkpoint.

  6. I’ve referred to the C gates at PHX as “Inadequate Seating International Airport.” Nice to see the new construction is more roomy.

  7. I flew out of the new D two weeks ago. Thrilled to see the Chase lounge which wasn’t open yet. The concourse has a much appreciated airy feeling. The walkway is lovely, but have to say, I do miss the moving option. There were people sprawling on the enlarged portion eating, sleeping, and talking on the phone. There were a couple of food carts stationed there. At 6:15pm it was rather dark in there even with some large floor to ceiling windows. Sun still bright here in phx at that time. All in all a very welcome addition.

  8. I’m old enough to remember rocking up no earlier than 30 minutes before departure, parking, clearing “security”, and getting on a plane. Anyone else remember the pleasures of flying Southworst from T1??

  9. “30+year old terminal “, thanks for pointing that out and making me feel old…anyone on here remember the 50% off sale HP held at this terminal right after it opened? ½ off tickets could only be purchased at the terminal! Most of Phoenix drove to the airport and parked everywhere including the riverbed to buy a ticket.

    My beef with PHX and their terminal architect is they pit in most of the terminal WHITE terrazano(?) flooring… WHITE…. It is now covered in scuff marks, and looks horrible, not sure what they were thinking, staining the concrete would have looked better…

  10. A bit more general (but serious) question: are there laws in the US or in specific states that disallow windows in aerobridges?

    1. I could be off, but I’m fairly certain that the nice glass jetbridges used elsewhere in the world were only approved for use in the US a few years ago. That was recently enough that many of the projects coming online now may have already made plans and purchases before that change. Hopefully more future projects will make use of them because they are much more pleasant than what we have now as US airports.

      1. The new airport terminal opening next March in Kansas City already has glass jetbridges installed at all gates.

      2. I totally agree, that’s why I asked. Those closed boxes feel claustrophobic, those with some windows feel much better.

    2. AFAIK, the fire code used to preclude the glass jet bridges. I believe the fire code changed which made glass jet bridges acceptable, but it could’ve been the jet bridges got a fire safety upgrade.

      Sent from my computer that moonlights as a phone.

  11. These 8 new gates will offer WN some much needed relief for their PHX flight schedules.
    With the increase of NG8 and MAX8 aircraft they will soon out number the NG7 aircraft. This has caused WN average Turn times to rapidly increase from 25 mins to average of 45 minutes.

  12. They could coat the floors in gold for all I care. I still wouldn’t take the God-awful Metrobus with wings known as WN.

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Cranky Flier