PHOENIX — Travelers were frustrated Wednesday while attempting to rent a car at Sky Harbor International Airport, leaving doubts about the industry’s ability to serve visitors coming to town for the Super Bowl.
Agents at Avis and its sub-company Payless told waiting customers they had cars available, but not enough staff to get them to the airport location.
“They have cars, but no people to move them. And how long will it take?” said traveler Bud Tuttle from Albuquerque. “They have no clue, and people are waiting and getting really irritated. Time is everything right now. We need to get out of here.”
There were issues up and down “rental car row.” Hertz staff said they were low on inventory, and not taking any walk-ins. Meanwhile, Budget was packed — the long, snaking line taking its toll on travelers.
“The line is brutal,” said Tracy Stratton, on her way to visit the Grand Canyon. “I waited like an hour and a half.”
Stratton said she pre-paid online and was glad to be getting a car at all.
Nancy Melton is a manager and master travel consultant for Preferred Travel Services in Phoenix. She says many rental car companies haven’t replenished inventory since COVID and are now running low, especially at the airport.
She says this is already a busy season in the Valley with the events like the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction, Phoenix Open, and snowbirds escaping winter back East.
But Melton says she’s optimistic rental companies will pull in vehicles from out-of-state and be ready for the Super Bowl.
“No doubt it’s going to be tight, but I am seeing car availability.”
At last check, cars were renting for around $80 a day Super Bowl weekend, but Melton says to reserve now, as availability will shrink even more once the two participating cities know for sure they’re coming to Phoenix. And she advises travelers to keep their options open.
“There’s always the idea of maybe renting from another company and not at the airport. They might have more availability,” she said.
She also warns travelers to make sure the website they’re booking with is legit, or use a travel agent to be safe.
“I have a colleague that said, ‘You can talk to us, or you can talk to the mouse.’ So when you book something online on some of these websites, you don’t really have a lot of leg to stand on.”
Meanwhile, travelers at Sky Harbor said if the flow of service doesn’t improve —and soon — they have serious doubts about the Super Bowl.
“Uber drivers will be happy,” Tuttle said.
“Total chaos!” said traveler, Paul Muchnik about the long line at Budget. “Good luck in two weeks with the Super Bowl and Phoenix Open.”
“They had better get here early and have food in their stomachs because they’re going to wait a while,” Stratton said.
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