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Super Bowl aftermath: Travelers say things running smoothly at Sky Harbor

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PHOENIX – Crews at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had prepared for Monday – the busiest day of in the airport’s history – for more than a year.

Officials brought in extra security and provided travel tips ahead of time. And for the most part, airport officials said things went smoothly.

Airport officials expected 180,000 passengers coming in and out of the airport on Monday, the day after Super Bowl XLIX.

An estimated 80,000 travelers planned to leave Phoenix, doubling the airport’s average departures of 40,000 a day. Several travelers on Monday approved of the self-proclaimed title of “America’s Friendliest Airport.”

Travelers took to Twitter with praise. One user said the check-in process and security was “smoother than a jar of Skippy.” Another called the experience “painless and pleasant.”

The Transportation Security Administration temporarily pumped up its staff of 1,000 by 10 percent to decrease wait times at security checkpoints, spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

The agency used its National Deployment Force, which sends officers from 40 airports across the country to facilities that need extra help for large-scale events or emergencies.

The TSA brought in about 20 canine teams to help detect possible explosives. And ticket counters, curbside check in and rental-car services also were heavily manned.

In 2014, the TSA screened more than 14 million travelers at Sky Harbor, the 15th busiest airport in the nation.

But Sky Harbor spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said Monday’s logistical challenges were much different than other high-traffic days, including the airport’s second busiest day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving.

People leaving for Thanksgiving weekend often leave their cars at the airport, meaning Sky Harbor must prepare for a hectic parking scene. But with sports fans flying in and out, the airport provided newcomers with more rental car resources.

Rental car returns tripled to 12,000 from an average of 4,000 on Monday. Rodriguez said workers posted fliers and set up booths at arrival gates earlier last week to prepare sports fans for return flights home. The tips included starting departure travel five hours early.

Boston resident Erica Melia, an advertising account executive, said that while her airport trips are normally stressful, Monday was not.

“I’m just hoping to get home,” Melia said, adding that her only concern was for delays from weather.

A Seattle couple said the staff impressed them. Donna Nichols said she’s flown a lot, and this experience has by far been the best.

“Normally, I’m carrying a bunch of bags because my husband is in a wheelchair, but people are right up here asking how they can help,” Nichols said. “It’s been awesome. I cannot say enough.”

While some travelers commended the airport’s preparations, others complained.

Passengers, like Dixon O’Brien, a small-business owner and Patriots fan from Chicago, said the distance from the rental-car return to Sky Harbor was a bit too far for comfort.

While Ron Flatter, a Fox News Radio anchor, said on Twitter that the urging of passengers to arrive five hours early was unnecessary.