Southwest Airlines celebrates 35 years at Sky Harbor, announces major expansion

Posted at 7:17 PM, Jan 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-01 14:52:40-05

If you have flown out of Sky Harbor in the last 30 years, there’s a good chance it was on a Southwest Airlines flight.

The low cost carrier celebrated a big milestone Tuesday, marking 35 years of service out of Phoenix.

Three decades ago, Southwest operated out of terminal 1 with 13 daily flights.

Today, they have 3,000 Phoenix based employees and average 170 flights each day.

"I was very fortunate to be able to work here as long as I have, and grow with the company, they really care about their employees," said Ellen MacMillan, a supervisor with Southwest Airlines for 34 years.

MacMillan could be considered one of the original pioneers for the airline when it expanded operations to Phoenix in 1982.

She’s seen the airline take off, literally.

Southwest Airlines has quietly become one of the city’s largest employers despite serious competition from other airlines.

"People talk about where an airline is headquartered or where they are based and really we have always considered Southwest Airlines our hometown carrier, one of two hometown carriers,” said Deborah Ostreicher, assistant Aviation Director at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

35 years later and tens of millions of passengers later, Southwest is expanding their valley footprint once again.

Southwest announced a multi-million dollar expansion at their Phoenix maintenance facility.

The project should begin later this year.