Austin: 4 Million More?

Scott Francis
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NWA-2016-01-09-HEROApparently the Austin airport is near capacity and plans to expand are underway, to begin this year!

Jason Zielinski, senior public information specialist for the city of Austin Aviation Department, said a $350 million expansion project is scheduled to break ground in mid-2016 and be complete by late 2018.

“We’re seeing amazing growth,” Zielinski said. “The economy in Austin is strong; people are moving here. … We’re going to grow with it.”

[…]

ABIA’s capacity is 11 million passengers per year, Zielinski said. A November statistics report indicated the airport had already accommodated 10.8 million from January to November 2015. Officials predict it will surpass the 11 million mark when the December report is finalized, he said.

It’s hard to imagine an additional 4 million visitors a year, to be honest.  Partly the increased travel is just a result of more residents – but this number of visitors to the airport indicates to me that there are also a lot more visitors/travelers from outside of Austin.  This growth in travel occurs in the context of Austin doubling in population over the last 20 years, growing by 68,000 residents in 2015 (the most ever in a single year), and an increase in direct flights to major commercial centers:

“We have attracted a number of new nonstop flights [and] a number of new airlines,” Zielinski said. “We’re seeing sustained growth here. There’s a need. We know the airlines want to expand in Austin.”

Zielinski said in 2014, British Airways, a new airline to ABIA, began a nonstop service to London. In 2015, nonstop flights to Orlando, Miami, Toronto, Portland, St. Louis and Cincinnati, among others, began.

I can vouch for the direct flight to London – it is a game changer for us, as a company that does business in the UK as well.  It cuts hours out of our flight time and transit time, and eliminates uncertainty in weather and other factors.

In fact that direct flight has done so well that British Airways has expanded the planes – from a 787 to a 777, and apparently this week upgraded to a 787 stretch Dreamliner.  I’m looking forward to experiencing the new plane on my return flight!

Once upon a time, American Airlines used to run a lot of direct flights out of Austin, but they’ve scaled back over the last 20 years, while everyone else is adding direct flights.  Swimming the wrong way, in my view.