San Antonio’s Airport Adding Nonstop Flight to New Orleans. What City is Next?

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Aerial view of SAT International Airport. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Internaional Airport

Courtesy / San Antonio International Airport

Aerial view of San Antonio International Airport.

What do Boston, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. have in common? Answer: You can't fly there from San Antonio without going through another city.

As City Council reviews the 2015 proposed budget, department by department, it's clear one priority high on the list is growing the number of nonstop destinations reachable from San Antonio. The number is 33 today, but Aviation Director Frank Miller announced that number will grow by one when Southwest Airlines introduces daily, nonstop service to New Orleans starting in April.

Terminal B exterior. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Internaional Airport.

Terminal B exterior. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio International Airport, by Mark Langford.

Miller presented the Aviation Department's budget at City Council's B Session on Wednesday. For travelers, there was a lot of promising news.

Southwest announced last month that it would offer San Antonio travelers Thanksgiving Week nonstop flights to New Orleans, which Miller told Council was originally intended as a market test. That promotion will still happen, but the airline already has decided to add Saturday service to New Orleans in January and daily service in April, according to Miller.

Mexico remains a major focus. Four of San Antonio's 33 nonstop destinations are to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Toluca. Miller said two airlines now compete for Guadalajara passengers and starting in early 2015 two airlines will offer direct service to Monterrey. Miller said the City is seeking to add more destinations south of the border, presumably to some of the top resort destinations.

Miller said the Aviation team has formed a new task force with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to focus on winning more nonstop flights and adding flights to under-served cities, such as Philadelphia and Seattle, which can be reached via a single daily nonstop flight.

non-stop flight survey graphic

San Antonio is playing catchup. For years, investment in the airport was woefully inadequate. In 2009, the City launched a comprehensive review of airport operations and the result adopted by City Council in 2011 was Vision 2050, a long-term master plan.

Construction on Terminal B were completed in 2010, along with the addition of a new baggage handling facility. The $35.6 million renovation of Terminal A was completed this year. A planned $14 million expansion of the U.S. Customs inspection facility in Terminal A will add 11,000 square feet and double the hourly rate of processing passengers from 300 to 600. That work will be done only at night, when Customs is closed, and completed by 2018.

Terminal A interior. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Internaional Airport.

Terminal A interior. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio International Airport.

Ground will be broken on a $163 million close-in, consolidated rental car facility in June 2015 and be completed by June 2017. A gas station also will be opened on airport property.

Even with all that investment, San Antonio International ranks only 43rd among the nation's 430 metro airports. That puts San Antonio in the top 50, on the one hand, serving eight million passengers a year, or 22,000 daily. Yet it also means the airport size, passenger traffic, and number of flights is inadequate for a city and metro area of San Antonio's size.

Travelers think of airports as transportation hubs. City officials also recognize their importance as economic development engines, and as an asset that helps shape the city's national and international profile. For most visitors, the first look at San Antonio is a walk through the airport where first impressions count.

Visitors now enjoy a more contemporary experience with more retail venues, higher quality dining options, more restrooms, improved signage and monitors, and more inviting public spaces. Fruteria, Chef Johnny Hernandez's Botanero and Tequila Bar in Terminal A, was named one of the Best Airport Restaurants in America by Men's Health magazine earlier this month.

*Featured/top image: Aerial view of San Antonio International Airport. Courtesy photo.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the owner and chef of La Gloria and Fruteria. The correct name is Johnny Hernandez. The Rivard Report apologizes for the error.

This article was originally published on Aug. 28, 2014.

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88 thoughts on “San Antonio’s Airport Adding Nonstop Flight to New Orleans. What City is Next?

  1. 1) Boston Logan 2) Washington Reagan – these are two potential college cities for my child and a direct flight would be so very welcomed

  2. Up until recently, I traveled to New Orleans once a month for almost two years. What a pain that there wasn’t a non-stop flight available when I needed it. My brothers will be making that trip now. They sure will be glad when that new flight kicks in during April. It’s about time. Additional non-stop routes are sorely needed for San Antonio. Isn’t that why AT&T moved their headquarters to Dallas?

  3. Michael A Dominguez I notice they wait until after mardi gras to start the non stop. They used to have at least one a day about 10 years ago. I like it. Hopefully it will not cost an arm and leg to fly it

  4. How about adding airlines? Austin is served by Allegiant, British Airways (nonstop to London), JetBlue, Frontier, and Virgin America – none of which flies into SAT. Sun Country doesn’t serve either airport.

    While we don’t have nonstop to DCA, we do have nonstop service into Dulles (United) and BWI (Southwest). However, if Southwest can fly nonstop to Washington Reagan from Austin, why not San Antonio?

  5. Miami please so we can make connecting flts to Caribbean destination that usually require an overnight stay from SAT

  6. Start with a decent direct public transport connection between downtown
    San Antonio and the airport; it doesn’t have to be rail, but it should be apparent, comfortable and move faster than 8mph (per the current VIA bus option).

  7. Wowsa – $163m for a rental car terminal? It is only 8 miles from the airport to the Alamo . . . I thought the City was planning for the future?

  8. Memorial day we took a direct flight to dulles / dc and it took 3 hours flight time, it was great. we took united.
    We need longer runways to accommodate larger planes for international flights, direct, to London, Paris and Madrid….then this city will boom……direct flights to all the major cities like boston, Atlanta, san Francisco are needed. Airlines need to create flight segments that ‘dumps’ passengers here and then board with local/regional enplanements onto a non stop flight. SA does have more than typical local enplanements
    dallas dfw has now a commuter train to the regional facility with direct flights ever where. however, paying 50 dollars on cab or for parking at airport (then being shuttled), plus traveling 1 hour to just get to air port is a real bummer. and one should compare to the current satx experience…….I rather take 15 minutes to SATX, board, wait 45 minutes at dfw/Houston, get a beer and newspaper, then board to big city. The better experience is board at SATX and get to those great destinations non stop direct.

  9. I sure would like to see non-stop service to Boston Logan International Airport. Taking 5 to 9 hours to get to Boston is a hassle and a waste of time.. Why should I have to drive to Dallas from San Antonio to get a direct flight to Boston. Flying to Dallas and sitting around there for a couple of hours is crazy. San Antonio is an international airport and should live up to it’s name.

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