SA Airport Flying High with Record-Breaking Month

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A baggage handler transports luggage in terminal A. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The San Antonio International Airport in June served the highest number of customers during any month in the history of the airport.

The San Antonio International Airport (SAT) reported record-high traffic in July, hosting about 848,000 domestic passengers throughout the month.

"This is an unprecedented 13th straight month of passenger growth," Russ Handy, aviation director for the City of San Antonio, stated in a news release. "Our efforts to engage with the community to better understand requirements and work with our airline partners to provide needed air service are working and will continue."

International traffic, however, dropped by 12% in July. This is largely attributed to seat reductions from Aeromexico and other seasonal adjustments from Volaris, Brian Pratte, air service administrator for SAT, told the Rivard Report on Monday. The airport is working with other airlines to mitigate reductions to Cancun and other cities in Mexico.

Total SAT traffic increased 5.8% compared to the same time period last year. With 5.2 million passengers passing through the airport so far this year, the total number of passengers has increased 4.4%.

The domestic growth that San Antonio is experiencing is the result of service improvement goals established by the airport and the City nearly a year and a half ago, Pratte said.

"We recognized we needed a change in the way we did air service development," he explained. "We very aggressively went after more carriers, more flights, more markets, and to increase capacity in existing markets. By and large we've been able to do that."

SAT officials laid out a five-year plan to increase service, he said, and it exceeded its first year's goal by at least 20%.

Earlier this year Frontier Airlines announced it will add routes to San Antonio from New Orleans, Phoenix, San Diego, Orlando, Cincinnati, Ontario, and Dulles International just outside of Washington, D.C. The year-round flight paths will begin in October, with seasonal routes beginning in spring next year. Air Canada started its new nonstop service to Toronto in May.

After Southwest Airlines moved its direct flight service to Mexico City to Houston Hobby in 2016, many travelers near San Antonio started to take the direct flight from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Interjet still offers twice daily flights, and Aeromexico offers daily nonstop service to Mexico. On Sept. 15, Volaris will host the first of its daily direct flights to Mexico City from San Antonio.

"We've got more growth coming down the pipeline," Pratte said.

Domestic growth helps the city attract other carriers and flight routes across the country. City officials are engaged in ongoing efforts to attain one of the coveted flight routes directly to Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C.

"[The domestic growth] is a great illustration of the demand that's going on in our region," Pratte said. "That's what airlines want to see."

It's unclear whether the record growth in July was attributable to more business or leisure travelers. Either way, Pratte believes it highlights the robust character and growth San Antonio is experiencing.

"We've seen some great wins," Pratte said. "We definitely think there are more to come."

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