Rental car shuttles line up at a terminal. Photo by Scott Ball.
Rental car shuttles line up at a terminal at the San Antonio Airport in June 2015. Photo by Scott Ball.

City Council approved the construction of a new Consolidated Rental Car Facility (CONRAC) for the San Antonio International Airport on Thursday, nearly five years after airport officials first recommended the project.

The $163 million project will be financed by a Customer Facility Charge (CFC), which only applies to customers renting vehicles at the airport. The seven-story building will house up to 13 car rental companies and include a service center designated to improve rental efficiency and short-term public parking options.

“If you’ve ever rented a vehicle from the San Antonio airport, you understand it can be a long wait and a frustrating experience,” said Wendy Duval, the director of airport properties and relations for Enterprise Holdings. “We view the project as a win-win for both the city and for the rental car industry, but more importantly it’s a huge win for the customers.”

The new facility will cover more than 1.8 million sq. ft., replacing the 30-year-old hourly parking garage, located directly across from airport terminals. The building will eventually be accessible via a pedestrian skybridge, and will include three levels dedicated to car maintenance and storage, with an estimated 2,600 spaces for “ready and return” rental cars.

“In addition to customer service and convenience, the building is going to be beautiful and fantastic for our mutual customers to walk through,” Duvall said. “This will be their first impression of the airport, the City of San Antonio and a lasting impression of the city.”

Plans for the San Antonio Airport's new Consolidated Rental Car Facility. Courtesy rendering.
Plans for the San Antonio Airport’s new Consolidated Rental Car Facility. Courtesy rendering.

Construction is slated to begin in August. Officials said the building will be completed by March 2018, but the first two parking levels will open earlier.

“As far as the rental car experience goes, I think we’re right at the top,” Frank Miller, the director of Aviation said. “It’s now going to be convenient to walk and get to the facility. We’re using a skybridge so there’s no traffic congestion or having to stop for pedestrians crossing the street.”

Miller said the project would help San Antonio join the ranks of established international airports in cities like Seattle and Cleveland, which use CONRAC systems to offer customers convenient parking and shuttle options, depending on their flight plans.

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport uses a variety of services, including light-rail, metro transit buses and a rental shuttle to transport customers to their choice transportation or hotel destinations.

Cleveland’s airport offers customers 24-7 access to rental car services, while providing rental shuttle access at all terminals. SAT has shuttle buses and VIA buses that transport customers to their respective hotel, individual rental car company or remote parking location.

“The shuttling operations used during the construction will be the same type of vehicles that we use now,” Miller said. The airport shuttles are designed to accommodate passengers and their luggage, with a pickup time every three to five minutes.

“We will have a pickup frequency that will be able to handle a lot of people,” Miller added. “We also have the flexibility to increase that frequency for certain peak times, like holidays.”

SAT will provide free shuttle services for all parking options. Starting July 15, hourly parking will be relocated to the Green Lot and the Long Term Parking Garage while the short-term parking garage is demolished to make way for the CONRAC.

Jackie Agan, the director of airport properties for Hertz Corporation, acknowledged the current rental locations and process are a “frustration for mutual customers,” and urged City Council to ensure public parking accessibility and deals with contractors throughout the construction process.

“For our out-of-town business and leisure customers, this is going to be an excellent complement to the upgrades at the airport terminal, and a welcoming experience for this thriving and growing city,” Agan said.

Prices at the long-term parking garage will remain the same during CONRAC construction. Customers can still park for free during the first 15 minutes, pay $2 to park for 16 minutes to an hour, and pay an additional $2 for every hour. After four hours, parking costs $11 and covers the space for up to 24 hours. Customers can also pay a flat $8 rate to park in the Green Lot for a 24-hour period.

“This is all about the customer experience, the convenience, and it really will raise the perception of San Antonio as a destination that people want to come to,” Miller added.

*Featured/top image: Rental car shuttles line up at a terminal at the San Antonio Airport in June 2015. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.