Southwest Airlines. Photo by Scott Ball.
Southwest Airlines plans to add seven flights, plus a nonstop to Albuquerque, in June. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

As chair of the Air Service Development Task Force, I am very pleased to report that we are working hand in hand with the City to make additional nonstop destinations, new carriers, and more service a reality.

This week marks an important milestone in our efforts. City staff is bringing forward a new air service incentive program to Council on Thursday. The innovative program is the City’s most aggressive to date. It includes the waiver of landing fees, terminal rents, and airfield fees, as well as up to $300,000 in marketing support. We fully support this program. Having an aggressive incentive program is necessary, however, it is only one component of our larger strategy to improve air service.

Increasing nonstop flights into and out of San Antonio is complicated. In order to add nonstop flights, we need to demonstrate to an airline that San Antonio is the strongest market for them to add service. Doing that requires a strong business case, one showing that the flight will regularly be full. This is difficult. And, it is more difficult because of the proximity of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the number of San Antonio area residents traveling north to fly. Airlines know this, and they provide service accordingly.

A map of nonstop flights offered by San Antonio International Airport (SAT) as of August 2015.
A map of nonstop flights offered by San Antonio International Airport (SAT) as of August 2015. Click to enlarge.

The City and Task Force’s top priority is attracting nonstop service to Boston. The Boston area is our largest region without nonstop service and has key industry connections with San Antonio. If an airline ran the business case for nonstop service between San Antonio and Boston, it would come up short. That’s the bad news. The good news is we know current travel does not portray the entirety of the market. A 2013 study indicates that 21,000 San Antonio area travelers a year fly out of another airport to Boston, the majority flying out of Austin-Bergstrom. That’s 58 trips a day. If a significant portion of that traffic chose San Antonio, our business case would be stronger. Add to that increased travel with a nonstop flight and the airport’s new incentive program. Now, our business case is much stronger.

It would be easy to explain the status quo; it is much more difficult to take action to improve our air service. But, we know that is not good enough for our community. That is why we are partnering with the City and asking you to choose San Antonio.

We are all working to make choosing San Antonio easier. The Consolidated Rental Car Facility currently under construction, while inconvenient now, will do that once complete. So will the planned connection of the two terminals to provide more dining and shopping opportunities. The additional resources provided to the Aviation Department by City Manager Sheryl Sculley are also efforts to improve the airport. The City is taking action to address the challenge at hand. It is time for us, the community and the business community, to join as full partners. It is time for us to choose San Antonio. Demonstrate to airlines with your ticket purchases that San Antonio is ready for additional air service.

Yes, we have had recent wins in air service. Last year, Miami and New Orleans were added as nonstop destinations and additional service was added to Los Angeles and Cancun. And just last week, Allegiant had its inaugural flights to Las Vegas, Orlando-Sanford, and Ft. Lauderdale. New destinations, more service, and new carriers translate to more competition and lower fares. These are steps in the right direction. But, it is not enough. We need to do more, and we need your support.

We’ve heard from the community and know from experience that improving air service needs to be a top priority. Now, it is time for the community to come together and act. Take ownership of this challenge and partner with us to bolster our efforts. You can help by filling out our survey here. You can help by making San Antonio your airport of choice.

Choose San Antonio. Let’s work together to show our airline partners that San Antonio wants, needs, and can support new nonstop destinations and expanded air service.

*Top image: A Southwest Airlines plane unloads passengers at San Antonio International Airport. Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

San Antonio Airport Working Group Aims to Improve Service

SAT Announces Two New Nonstop Flights 

Is Nonstop Service to Boston Next for SAT?

Officials Celebrate Construction of new Airport Parking, Rental Car Facility

VIA Transit: The Least Likely Choice of Airport Travelers

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Arthur Coulombe

Arthur Coulombe is chair of the Air Service Development Task Force and general manager of JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.