PA S S ENG E R COUNT REBOUNDS
ABIA ocials project it could take until 2023 to regain its pre-pandemic passenger count, but July 2021 was its fth busiest month ever. It added 22 direct ights, including to Honolulu, Boise and Tulsa, since March 2020.
which took us from about 11 million enplanements per year to 15 [million], we were already behind,” Sepul- veda said. “Greater than the growth of population is the growth in commerce and the economy, which I say that to signal that air travel was growing at an even greater clip than population.” Airport planning experts agree with ABIA’s decision to move forwardwithexpansion. Max Hirsh, managing director of the Airport City Academy, a group that spe- cializes in airport real estate projects, said that smart air- ports are forging ahead with improving their facilities. “[Airports] understand that these kinds of projects deliver benets for decades and are keeping a long-term perspec- tive. They also see COVID[-19] as a once-in-a-lifetime oppor- tunity to complete these proj- ects quickly and cheaply,” Hirsh said in an email. While ABIA is approaching pre-pandemic levels, Hirsh said reduced passenger trac creates signicant advantages for airports to build eciently because they can move
forward with projects without needing to work around regu- lar ight operations. South Terminal stando Ocials with the city, which owns the airport, have also said they will close the South Terminal, which opened in 2016 and caters to low-cost carriers. The South Terminal is operated by Lonestar Air- port Holdings, which signed a 40-year lease in May 2016 with the city to manage the facility. Community Impact Newspaper obtained a copy of the lease through a public information request, which oers some details around Lonestar Airport Holdings’ rights as a tenant. The lease states that so long as the tenant pays rent and observes the lease agree- ments, it “may peaceably and quietly have, hold, occupy, use and enjoy the premises during the term and may exercise all of its rights here- under, without ejection or interference by [the] owner.” Lonestar Airport Hold- ings CEO Je Pearse said the timing is not right for the
Number of passengers per month
Number of ights per month #
President Joe Biden announces all adults are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
One month after COVID-19 began widely spreading in the United States.
SOURCE: WHITE HOUSE, AUSTIN DEPARTMENT OF AVIATIONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
company to exit the lease. “We have no intention of sacricing any of our rights under the lease,” Pearse said. “There’s toomuch ridingon it.” Yaft said the airport is equipped to handle Allegiant and Frontier, which currently y out of the South Terminal, moving to the main terminal. Pearse said that he does
not understand how that is possible. “They don’t have enough gates, as it is, and to reduce the number of gates at the airport by three, as demand is increasing, again—surpris- ing,” Pearse said. Meanwhile, Allegiant has continued to expand its operations out of the South Terminal. Pearse said begin- ning Nov. 18, it plans to almost triple its Austin oper- ations to 45 ights per week on average. With the expectation of a legal battle, the city largely declined to comment on the South Terminal. In a statement it said: “Lone- star recently notied the city of Austin that it is not interested in participating in a structured negotiation process related to this mat- ter. Due to anticipated liti- gation, we cannot provide additional information at this time.” Pearse said in an email that he remains open to working with the city to help expand the airport, includ- ing through “operations and management of a new termi- nal, providing much needed nancing and capital for the expansion or the relocation and expansion of an ultra- low cost carrier terminal that would support domestic and
international ights.” Airport andmobility
The proposed expansion coincides with a handful of major mobility projects in Austin, with none larger than Project Connect. The 15% designs revealed during the summer for the $7.1 bil- lion project show the Metro- Rail Blue Line running from downtown to the airport. Assistant City Manager Gina Fiandaca oversees mobility, which includes the airport, and views that investment as critical to the airport’s growth. “Transit plays a big part of how people get around, and it’s foundational to how peo- ple are getting to your city center from your airport,” she said. “Building out the Blue Line with that direct connec- tion to the airport is really key. We know that as the city grows, our roadway system can’t keep growing.” Fiandaca said as the city continues to grow, the airport is likely to follow suit. “When’s the best time to plant a tree? Well, 20 years ago was the best time and what’s the second best time? Right now,” Fiandaca said.
GROUNDED BY THE PAND EM I C
Airports across Texas watched annual passenger counts freefall in 2020. 2019 2020 Percent change KEY #%
SAN ANTONIO INTERNATIONAL
GEORGE BUSH INTERCONTINENTAL HOUSTON
DALLAS FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL
WILLIAM P. HOBBY HOUSTON
DALLAS LOVE FIELD
For more information, visit communityimpact.com.
SOURCES: AUSTIN DEPARTMENT OF AVIATION, DALLAS FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, DALLAS LOVE FIELD AIRPORT, HOUSTON AIRPORTS, SAN ANTONIO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
SOUTHWEST AUSTIN DRIPPING SPRINGS EDITION • NOVEMBER 2021
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