AUSTIN (KXAN) — An outdoor public patio at Austin’s airport is closing to make way for a private lounge.
The almost-4,000-square-foot space was originally opened as part of a nine-gate expansion at the airport in 2019.
“We realized that it was getting very low utilization by the public, even though we call it a public patio,” said Mookie Patel, chief business and finance officer at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
Wendy Price Todd, a board member of the Airport Advisory Commission called the move “surprising” in a commission meeting Wednesday.
“It was under-utilized because it was under-advertised, under-promoted, under-signaged,” Price Todd said. “It was a sort of self-fulfilling thing.”
The new space, called Sapphire Terrace, will be open to passengers with Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards. A spokesperson for Chase said the terrace is a “unique experience,” and is not part of the network of Chase Sapphire Lounges by The Club found at other airports.
A statement from Chase said the terrace will provide cardmembers “a place to relax and fuel up before flights,” with free snacks and beverages, including cider from Austin Eastciders and beer from 512 Brewing Company.
The space will be indoor-outdoor and will also feature artwork by Austin artist Rex Hamilton “inspired by the vibrant colors and native flowers of Texas,” the statement said.
“This trend of credit card travel partnerships has been a very strong, evolving trend in the industry,” Patel said.
The terrace will open March 20 and will operate daily from 10 a.m. through 8 p.m. Cardmembers can bring up to two guests.
The lounge will operate on a two-year pilot program. Patel said it will generate about $3.8 million in new revenue for the airport.
“We’re looking at non-airline revenue to help balance the future funding and the financing of the airport,” Patel said. “Every year, we have about a $50 million mortgage payment to pay. That mortgage payment grows to almost $80 million in the next couple years.”
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines all operate lounges at AUS. Patel said the airport negotiates directly with airlines when it comes to lounge space based on their needs and growth.