Portions of Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport were reopened Sunday morning after a multi-hour closure, prompted by a suspicious abandoned rental car, snarled air traffic and led to the cancellation of numerous flights.
The airport was completely open at about 11:15 a.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) after Phoenix police determined the car was not a threat.
Phoenix police officers working at the airport spotted the unattended rental car on the curb line of the upper deck of Terminal 4 at about 7 a.m. The bomb squad was then called out to determine whether the car was actually a threat.
Sgt. Tommy Thompson, a Phoenix police spokesman, said investigators were still checking the vehicle at 11 a.m.
"It's a lengthy process," he said in a press conference.
Police had yet to identify the owner of the car.
Gregory Roybal, a spokesman for the airport, encouraged travelers to confirm the status of flights with their airlines.
The east side of the terminal, before the security checkpoints, had been evacuated for at least three hours Sunday morning. Three of the four security checkpoints were closed, and the PHX Sky Train was not dropping off passengers at Terminal 4.
"Police are working to resolve this as soon as possible," Roybal told The Arizona Republic in an email.
Flight-tracking web site FlightAware showed hundreds of flights had been delayed Sunday, either in leaving or in arriving at Sky Harbor. The site showed nearly 30 canceled flights, mostly on Southwest Airlines.
Dian Squire spent hours stuck in the Sky Train lobby while his American Airlines flight to Detroit was delayed multiple times. He said dozens of people were sitting on the floor as they waited for any information from the Transportation Security Administration or airport staff.
"That seems a little poor from a crowd-control perspective," he said.
Airport volunteers brought therapy dogs to help calm the growing crowd. Passengers speculated about whether they could see any planes taking off or landing. Squire said the stuck travelers didn't seem frustrated too with the situation.
"People are surprisingly calm," Squire said. "I think a security threat is more manageable in people’s mind than a plane delay for other reasons. I bet that’s different for people stuck in the terminal itself."
His flight was pushed to 4:15 p.m. local time after the airport reopened.
By noon, passengers were taking about 25 minutes to get through security and into Terminal 4, though lines were closed briefly because the system was so crowded with passengers.
Security checks at the terminal were being expedited — with passengers leaving their shoes on and their bags closed, simply emptying their pockets and moving quickly through the checkpoint
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