Ultra low-cost terminal with cheaper flights could open at Austin airport
KVUE — The South Terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport could be bustling with travelers once again. Austin City Council approved a measure Thursday morning to negotiate with infrastructure investment firm Highstar Capital IV, L.P., which wants to renovate the terminal at the airport just off U.S. Highway 183.
ABIA leaders wanted the council to allow them to negotiate and sign a 30-year lease with two five-year extension options with Highstar for the renovation and operation of an "ultra low-cost" terminal. Council only approved the negotiation of the contract for the no-frills terminal.
ABIA spokesman Jim Halbrook said many of the airlines are planning to expand in the fall and the Barbara Jordan Terminal is already quite busy, with morning and afternoon rushes.
"We've got jets on every gate, we have jets on all the apron space behind them waiting to go to those gates to pick up passengers, and we've got jets behind those," said Halbrook.
The airport's South Terminal is a bright green, single-story building just south of the main terminal with three aircraft loading positions and more than 1,100 public parking spaces.
The South Terminal was in operation for one year, then closed. Now abandoned and unused, the terminal would help ease congestion, but the item that passed on Thursday's agenda isn't exactly what ABIA leaders asked for.
"The things that make it ultra low-cost is it doesn't have things like a jet bridge. It doesn't have an automated baggage carousel system. It's a really simple building. It's clean, but it's simple," said Halbrook.
The pay-off is cheaper flights offered by two airlines that fit into the business model the South Terminal would provide: Frontier and Allegiant. Frontier and Allegiant planned to expand their Austin operations this winter, but currently there's little space available in the main terminal.
Both airlines have seen a lot of growth in recent years. In April 2015, Frontier Airlines passengers totaled 26,562, up 76 percent from the previous year. Allegiant Air saw a 36.5 percent increase in passengers from the prior year.
Airport staff plan to come back to council later this summer with a deal for them to vote on.
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