San Antonio aviation department officials told City Council on Wednesday that progress is being made on several improvements to the airport and two of three new terminal gates are set to open during the busy holiday travel season. 

Planned as part of a $2.5 billion capital improvement project approved a year ago, a newly constructed Gate 9 will open in Terminal B on Dec. 9, said Jesus Saenz, director of airports for the San Antonio Airport System in an update to the council.

That will allow American Airlines to operate all of its flights from Terminal A, where a new Gate 16 will open Dec. 22, adding more capacity to that terminal, he said. 

A third gate, B-1a, is scheduled to open Jan. 11, increasing the total number of gates at the San Antonio International Airport to 27.

In the meantime, a temporary Starbucks store will soon open in Terminal B and a new Transportation Security Administration checkpoint will be ready in time for the traditionally heavy travel season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

In addition, budget carrier Spirit Airlines will start offering service for the first time in San Antonio on Nov. 17.

Saenz also presented to the council more details about a parking program to ease congestion during the holidays.  

“The short-term parking continues to close on a daily basis,” he said, due to a post-COVID rebound in passenger numbers in 2022. 

As a solution, 1,000 long-term parking spaces will be added to the existing surface lots, and during peak travel periods, travelers will be able to use the Flyaway Valet service to reserve a parking space before going to the airport. 

In September, airport officials told city leaders they plan to turn management of vehicle parking operations over to a private company and will release a request for proposals in early 2023. The move is expected to improve both service and increase revenue. 

In November 2021, the City Council approved the plan to build a new terminal at the airport and make a handful of other significant improvements that were outlined in a 20-year Strategic Development Plan. 

The work toward selecting contractors for those projects is moving forward with several other projects already done, Saenz said. In June, the council approved a $3.8 million contract with architecture firm Corgan for planning Terminal C, which is expected to be completed by 2028.

Through a recent solicitation process, aviation officials also have selected the San Antonio-based team of engineering consultants Freese and Nichols as the project manager and construction manager overseeing the building of the additional terminal at the airport. The selection is pending a City Council vote in December.

District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry asked Saenz about funding the project. 

Cost estimates for the terminal project will be determined through the work of the terminal planning architects and the construction manager and presented to the council in 2023, Saenz said.

In July, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded San Antonio $10 million in grant funding to make space for Terminal C to be built, and in August another $2.5 million in funding for airport improvements. 

More funding will be available through competitive grant opportunities in the coming years, including $145.5 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, passed earlier this year, he said.

Projects already completed at the airport in 2022 include improving a heavily used airfield runway in the northwest corner of the airport, adding controls in the baggage handling system to increase capacity, and building and opening an office building for maintenance staff.

Also, at Stinson Airport, construction has started on a new taxiway, Saenz said, “that will create additional development opportunities for hangars and more expansion for the growth that’s occurring in the Stinson area, as well.”

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...