F1 Fans About to Start Flying In
This weekend’s Formula 1 race is sold out, except for a few premium ticket packages. The weather forecast is looking better, with the chance of rain for Sunday’s race at 10 percent. And the fans are about to descend on Austin.
Downtown hotels, like the Four Seasons, say their lobbies are still full of the usual conservatively dressed businesspeople rather than festive race fans.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport spokesman Jim Halbrook says the airport expects the most passenger traffic on Thursday, with 36,000 passengers coming and going. A crew of 70 volunteer hosts is set to meet arriving visitors at the airport baggage claim and help them get where they’re going.
And those flying in privately still have room to park their jets, although Halbrook says the airport has set up a reservation system.
“We’ve had 150 aircraft registered into this system already,” Halbrook said. “We do expect more. There’s a little more space out there. But the aircraft range in size greatly, from propeller-driven Cessnas to more of your business-style jets to really large charters such as 747s and 767s.”
Some smaller nearby airports expect private flights into their fields as well. Austin Executive Airport in Pflugerville expects more than 60 aircraft. Airports from Georgetown to San Marcos are all expecting F1 arrivals.
Once they’re here, some visitors will take to the skies again rather than fight traffic on the roads. Rene Banglesdorf owns Charlie Bravo, one of the charter companies that will shuttle fans out to the track by helicopter. She says she’s getting up to 20 calls per hour.
At this point, it may be too late to book your helicopter shuttle for race day. Banglesdorf says all of her Sunday flights are sold out, at around $600 per seat. She says most of her customers are putting it on expense accounts.
“A lot of our passengers are people who are entertaining business clients, and they want to make a good impression,” Banglesdorf said. “And spending a little more money, or a couple thousand dollars more, to make a great impression on somebody and close a million-dollar deal.”
Anyone using ABIA for commercial flights is advised to arrive two hours early. The airport is adding a temporary fourth security checkpoint, but with the F1 race coming close to the Thanksgiving holiday, the airport is sure to be busy.