ABIA Looking Overseas with Terminal Expansion
Big upgrades at Austin’s airport are on the way. Travelers using Austin Bergstrom International will get relief from long airport security lines as facilities expand.
ABIA is upping its game partly to compete with international airports in Houston and Dallas.
Passengers waited in long lines Friday as thousands of people poured into Austin for the Austin City Limits music festival. Mayor Lee Leffingwell stood among them as he announced a $50 million expansion of the airport’s main terminal.
“There will be more security lanes, reducing the waiting time in security lanes by about 70 percent,” Leffingwell said. “In addition to that it will add more baggage carousels. But very importantly, it will increase the space available for Customs facilities.”
Many of these facilities will help process international travelers. Leffingwell said the city is actively courting flights from some of Europe’s main hubs. Right now, those flights stop in Houston or Dallas before getting here.
Michael Boyd of Boyd Group International, an aviation-consulting company in Colorado, says that more direct international connections will be good for business in Austin.
“The real value is not how many people go through the airport,” Boyd said. “The value of Austin is, can people get there from Shanghai? Can the business traveler from Munich get there? The answer is yes, with one stop, one easy connection. So you are competitive globally, that’s what counts. It’s not how many people are wearing out the carpet.”
It will take at least two years to complete the main terminal’s addition. ABIA plans to fund the project with its capital budget and federal grants. Leffingwell says no city tax money will go to this project. The City Council will look at action to start the design phase this Thursday.