AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Chamber along with 60 area leaders traveled to Washington, D.C. at the end of June. It was the chamber’s annual advocacy trip that leaders haven’t been able to take since 2019 because of the pandemic.
The group met with various federal partners including the Federal Transit Administration, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration.
On the trip, Austin City Council Member District 6’s Mackenzie Kelly said she went to advocate for additional TSA staff for the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
“TSA has hired 25 staff over the last six months. Sixteen new people are coming on board [this] month, 14 of those are non-technical, but they’re on their pathway to being certified TSA agents, and the transition takes two to four months,” Kelly explained.
In an effort to tackle the demand for workers, Kelly also said TSA is offering a $2,000 incentive for new hires.
“Which is actually double that of other medium hubs, like Austin airport. The Austin airport is ranked the 34th largest in the country, but our city is ranked 10th largest in population size, and so as we go from being a medium hub airport to a larger hub airport, we really need that infrastructure and those agents to help support the passengers that go through there every day,” Kelly said.
Most recently it was announced the airport is set to receive $15 million from President Joe Biden’s $1 billion bipartisan infrastructure law. The money will help expand capacity. Airport officials said it is space the airport needs that will impact the entire community.
“Even if you’re not flying out for vacation once a year, you’re still benefiting from the airport,” said Sam Haynes, the airport’s communications manager. “If you benefit from Amazon Prime or vaccines or any of these critical goods, the airport plays a role in connecting to our community.”
While the airport may not be in Kelly’s district, she said it’s an asset that belongs to everyone, so she wants to make sure the growth is on the right path.
“Austin is evolving from an airport of regional significance to one of national significance just because of the explosive growth that we’ve had, which is really, really important.”
Since March of this year, the airport has been breaking passenger traffic records. The latest report from May sets the record, showing more than 2 million people traveled through the Austin airport that month. Before this spring, the previous record to beat was more than 1.5 million people — that was set in July 2019.