A Tale of Two Texas Cities: San Antonio is the bigger city. But airlines are flocking to Austin.
Last week was a great week for San Antonio International Airport. True, it was far from the only U.S. airport to benefit from Frontier’s blitz of new route announcements (21 new airports and 85 new routes; see page 8). But few airports got quite as much of Frontier’s attention as San Antonio—the ultra-LCC blessed it with no fewer than six new routes.
This was headline news in San Antonio. But it was overshadowed by sexier news an hour’s drive up Interstate 35, where Austin-Bergstrom International Airport learned Delta will fly there all the way from Amsterdam. Granted, Delta will operate a total of just four AmsterdamAustin round trips (for the South by Southwest music festival next March). Frontier, by contrast, is offering year-round flights to New Orleans, Phoenix and San
Licensed Diego, and seasonal flights to Cincinnati, Orlando and San Jose, California. But it was an apt metaphor for the diverging air service fortunes of two Texas cities: booming Austin and notso-booming San Antonio.
Two decades ago, in 1997, San Antonio enplaned considerably more passengers than Austin, which wasn’t surprising, because San Antonio also had a considerably larger metro area population. A decade later, in 2007, Austin’s airport was already somewhat busier than San Antonio’s, which was impressive, considering that San Antonio still had a somewhat larger population. Still, the difference in air service then was modest: 7% more seats scheduled at Austin than at San Antonio, according to Diio Mi schedule data. But now? Despite respectable growth this year at San Antonio (4% more seats scheduled than last year), Austin is fully 53% larger by that measure. That’s despite Austin still being the less populous metro area. (With an estimated 2.1m people now, Austin’s population is growing more quickly, according to U.S. Census estimates, but still hasn’t caught up to San Antonio’s 2.4m). In fact, San Antonio— again, despite the growth this year—has slightly fewer seats scheduled this year than it had in 2007.
And those overall numbers are to speak nothing of the kinds of service additions Austin has been able to tout. Maybe the handful of Delta flights from Amsterdam are more symbolic than substantive, in terms of their overall impact. But daily British Airways flights from London Heathrow are much more than symbol—they started…
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