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

San Antonio International Airport is expanding its reach with new daily nonstop flights to three major visitor destinations in March and April.

American Airlines launched its daily nonstop service between San Antonio and Miami on Thursday, and Southwest Airlines launched a weekly nonstop to New Orleans on Friday that will go daily on April 7. One day later, on April 8, Southwest is expected to launch daily nonstop service to Cancún, according to an airport spokesperson. Delta Airlines, meanwhile, will become the fourth major carrier to offer daily nonstop service between San Antonio and Los Angeles, also on April 7.

“There is a lot going on, April is going to be time to get ready for summer,” said Evelynn Bailey, San Antonio International’s chief public information officer. “We just announced the news today that Southwest is now going to New Orleans every Friday at 8:25 a.m., and that becomes daily service on April 7.”

With the new service to Miami, New Orleans and Cancún, there will be 36 destinations served by nonstop flight from San Antonio International. By comparison, Austin-Bergstrom International offers nonstop service to 48 destinations, including London.

San Antoino International Airport's nonstop markets (new nonstop flights noted at bottom right).
San Antonio International Airport’s nonstop markets (new nonstop flights noted at bottom right).

Daily service to Miami gives South Texans a direct link to the nation’s gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean. With a 6:20 a.m. departure from San Antonio and a 7:50 p.m. departure from Miami, a business traveler could travel to Miami from San Antonio and be back on the ground here by 10:08 p.m.

“This new nonstop service to Miami gives San Antonio residents more opportunities to connect to American’s vast network in Latin America,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said in a press release. “Moreover, the new flight confirms the airline’s confidence in the San Antonio market and solidifies our long partnership with American Airlines.”

No details have been released yet about Southwest’s daily nonstop to Cancún, but the flight gives San Antonio travelers the opportunity to reach the Riviera Maya with the added time and cost of connecting through Dallas, Houston or Austin.

City officials made expanded nonstop service and added destinations a priority in 2014, and airlines have responded affirmatively, believing the city’s continued growth and current passenger count justifies expanded nonstop service. Businesses and individuals alike have been frustrated for years by the added time and expense of having to connect to flights through Dallas and Houston.

Aviation Director Frank Miller told City Council in October that his department had formed a 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 now via a single daily nonstop flight. Top destinations not yet served by nonstop service include Washington Reagan, Boston Logan, and New York LaGuardia. There are no flights from San Antonio to Europe, and no nonstop flights to latin American destinations other than Mexico.

“The task force is still going strong and actually being headed by Arthur Coulombe, who is the general manager of the JW Marriott Resort and he has a laser focus on the need to expand our nonstop service out of San Antonio,” said Richard Perez, president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber. “We need to do next is conduct a fact-based study with strong analytics of our marketplace and where people want to go and how often. We need to be targeting multiple new destinations for nonstop service, and we need to make our case to the airlines with hard numbers.”

Southwest Airlines is set to start its nonstop service between San Antonio and New Orleans on April 7.

“We are pleased with Southwest’s decision to expand the limited service to New Orleans to permanent,” said Mayor Taylor. “Southwest Airlines has been a great partner for our city and their continued growth shows great confidence in the San Antonio market.”

Delta Airlines will become the fourth major carrier to offer daily nonstop service between San Antonio and Los Angeles, also on April 7. Additionally, two new regional airlines are set to add additional daily nonstop service between San Antonio and Monterrey.

Mexico remains a major focus for the task force. Four of San Antonio’s 34 nonstop destinations are to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Toluca. Miller said two airlines now compete for Guadalajara passengers and two Mexican airlines plan to 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 other than Cancún.

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Readers: Which city do you wish to travel to directly from San Antonio? Add your comment at the end of this story with your preferred nonstop destination. We will share the results with the City.

  1. Washington Reagan
  2. Boston Logan 
  3. London International
  4. New York LaGuardia
  5. Other (Please Specify)

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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.

Aerial view of SAT International Airport. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Internaional Airport
Aerial view of San Antonio International Airport. Courtesy photo. Credit: Courtesy / San Antonio International Airport

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

Ground will be broken on a $163 million close-in, consolidated rental car facility in June and be completed in 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 people 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 last year.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor of the San Antonio Report.