Calling it necessary to position San Antonio for economic growth, the nonprofit that works to attract businesses and jobs to the region debuted an effort Thursday to attract more direct flights to the airport.

With an initial investment of $3 million from the private sector, greater:SATX launched its Air Service Development Fund with a goal to improve passenger air connectivity at the San Antonio International Airport (SAT).

Similar funds have been used in the past for other economic development efforts, said a greater:SATX spokeswoman.

This fund, generated through Visit San Antonio and the corporate community, will be used to help recruit new nonstop air service to the San Antonio airport, said a spokeswoman. 

Increased nonstop air service would support investment and growth well beyond the San Antonio area, according to a statement released by the airport and greater:SATX officials. 

“We’ve benchmarked our region’s needs as well as successful funding mechanisms in other markets,” said Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, President and CEO of greater:SATX. 

The new fund “will support added service to priority geographies within Europe and Canada as well as additional domestic destinations,” she said. 

The San Antonio airport currently only offers direct flights to 40 cities in the U.S. and to Mexico, compared to 94 at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, according to Flight Connections. An average of more than 10 million passengers travel through the San Antonio airport annually, a number that is expected to nearly double to 18 million in the next 20 years.

In November, the City Council approved a 20-year, $2.5 billion plan to upgrade the airport with a new terminal and new gates by 2028, as well as a larger transportation center and parking garage, a central processing area and improved runways.  

On Tuesday, an airport spokeswoman announced that the Federal Aviation Administration had also awarded the airport $408,000 in grant funding for use in studying the pavement condition and developing a maintenance program for future airfield pavement improvements. 

“Planning for the growth and demand in the San Antonio region continues to be our focus,” stated City Manager Erik Walsh. “With the significant investments our region is making, the greater San Antonio area stands to gain significant service into the future.”

The Air Service Development Fund is intended to increase the region’s direct connectivity to cities where San Antonio has a high number of average passengers per day, but does not yet offer a nonstop flight.

Economic development officials are partnering with the airport, Visit San Antonio, and area corporate leaders to promote the fund. 

“It’s time for us to leverage our resources from across the region to reach the next level,” said Craig Boyan, president of H-E-B and an officer on the greater:SATX board of directors. 

“H-E-B is proud to be based in San Antonio. We’re committed to investing in our airport,” he said. “This initiative can help our greater San Antonio region attract more business investment that ultimately provides more jobs for San Antonians.”

This privately funded pool of cash will be directed toward establishing confidential agreements with airlines that guarantee revenue or seats. For example, seat guarantees promise that a minimum number of airplane seats would be filled when a new route establishes here in San Antonio. If that minimum is not met, a payment from the fund would be made to meet the minimum.

“Our team looks forward to collaborating with airlines expanding service into San Antonio ensuring the new and expanding markets’ flying public is motivated to fill the new routes into the Alamo City,” said Marc Anderson, president & CEO of Visit San Antonio.

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Shari Biediger

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