Do you dream of lounging on a Hawaiian beach or strolling the famed Champs-Élysées, but dread the excruciatingly long plane trip from Austin? Relief may be in sight.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is eyeing financial incentives to entice airlines to launch nonstop service from Austin to Hawaii and seven international destinations — Amsterdam, Beijing, Dublin, Paris, Seoul, Shanghai, and Tokyo.
A new proposal being circulated by Austin-Bergstrom, (which by the way now prefers to go by Austin-Bergstrom rather than ABIA) focuses on those eight destinations for new nonstop flights. In exchange, participating airlines would receive breaks on landing fees and marketing expenses. Austin’s city manager must give final approval to the incentive plan before it can take effect.
Bryce Dubee, a spokesman for Austin-Bergstrom, says those eight routes are among those requested most often by business and leisure travelers. No timetable has been set for adding these destinations.
Incentives also would be extended to airlines that start nonstop service to locales in North America (outside the U.S.), Central America, and South America that currently lack nonstop flights. The airport hasn’t specified destinations for its Americas wish list, other than Hawaii.
Dubee says the airport’s recent nine-gate expansion has tripled — from two to six — the number of gates that can handle long-haul flights and, therefore, has enabled Austin-Bergstrom to boost the number of targeted nonstop destinations. Long-haul flights typically require big aircraft like the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 777, along with bigger gates to accommodate those planes.
The latest proposal would update targeted nonstop destinations identified by airport officials in 2015. Four years ago, the wish list cited only four destinations: Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, and Tokyo. The airport since has checked off one destination on that list; in May, German airline Lufthansa started nonstop service to Frankfurt.
Since Austin-Bergstrom opened in May 1999, the number of nonstop destinations available to Austin-area travelers has soared. Twenty years ago, the airport offered nonstop flights to 29 destinations. Today, nonstop flights are scheduled from Austin to nearly 65 airports in the U.S. and other countries, including service to Frankfurt, London, and Mexico City.
In June, nearly 1.61 million passengers flew into and out of Austin-Bergstrom, establishing an all-time high for traffic in a single month. The previous record (more than 1.54 million passengers) was set in May.
Beyond the nine-gate project completed this spring, the airport envisions tacking on 32 more gates by the end of 2040 as part of a multibillion-dollar expansion. One Austin-Bergstrom official has said the size of the airport could eventually be on par with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which is the world’s 15th busiest airport.