The San Antonio airport is about to get a large shot in the arm after suffering through historic losses during the pandemic. 

Of the $8 billion that the Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday it will be awarding to airports through the American Rescue Plan Act, the San Antonio International Airport will receive $38 million. 

“The Airport Rescue Grants keep workers employed and help the aviation sector recover as more Americans get vaccinated and begin traveling again,” stated Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Transportation Secretary. 

Nationwide, passenger counts have been trending up in recent months and spiked over the Memorial Day weekend as leisure travel picked up post-pandemic. But with business travel still on hold, the numbers are nowhere near the levels seen before COVID-19 grounded most air travel. 

Transportation Security Administration checkpoint data shows that on Wednesday, the total number of domestic passengers passing through security was just over half that of the same date in 2019. 

In San Antonio, the average number of passengers tallied in May exceeded that of airports nationally but was still expected to come in below 2019 levels with 20% fewer flights.

The FAA funding, awarded to airports with more than 10,000 passenger boardings a year, is intended to provide economic relief to airports, allowing them to keep workers by reimbursing operational expenses, debt service payments, and costs related to control the spread of COVID-19.

“The stimulus funds are being utilized over the next several years to offset operational expenses and debt service payments due to the loss of revenue caused by the pandemic,” said Jesus Saenz, San Antonio’s director of airports. 

The grant money will also provide rent relief to retail and concession companies in their terminals. More than $4.3 million of the total $38 million headed to San Antonio is relief funding for the airport’s concessionaires.

Texas airports fared well in the allocation of aid. The FAA awarded Austin-Bergstrom International Airport $61 million, Dallas-Fort Worth International nearly $252 million, and for Houston’s two main airports, over $200 million combined. 

The FAA’s announcement also stated that for airports the size of San Antonio’s, this year’s grants made through the Airport Improvement Program will cover 100% of eligible costs; previously, the program covered only 75% of eligible costs.

Through other pandemic-related federal stimulus bills, the San Antonio and Stinson airports have received nearly $51 million in relief funding. In April, the FAA awarded the airport a $9 million grant for runway improvements. 

The recent American Rescue Plan funding also included $209,000 for Kelly Field at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.