AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lines at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport wrapped around outside the entrance this morning amid an influx of travelers.
More than 28,000 passengers were projected to pass through on Monday, after a historically busy Sunday.
“It was so messy, it was so chaotic,” said Jeannelyn Gadiano, who is in town for a family wedding.
Gadiano and her sister, Jocelyn Franz, were at the airport around 4 a.m. to drop off another sister.
“She came early just to, you know, to make it on time, but she had to pay that extra dollars just to get through the priority boarding,” Franz said.
They said their sister ended up paying about $130 but made her flight.
AUS officials said the airport experienced a higher volume of passengers before 8 a.m. than typical. Monday morning, Transportation Security Administration agents screened 8,252 passengers before 8 a.m., while 6,600 passengers is the average screening level.
A spokesperson for the TSA said events such as the NASCAR Cup Series and the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin this weekend are likely contributors to Sunday and Monday’s influx in air traffic.
Airport representatives said they’re working on terminal improvements and helping the TSA fill staff vacancies to help expedite future travel processes.
After this morning’s extended lines, airport officials confirmed Monday afternoon AUS is also navigating a fuel shortage alert, asking airlines to fly in with more fuel than normal.
They say that’s becoming more common as traffic here increases: During Formula 1 weekend in October, for example, they said three commercial flights had to divert to another airport to fuel up.
“The shortage is due to the current demand for aircraft fuel outpacing the supply. On any given day, we have about a two to three day supply. Most airports average 5 – 7,” a spokesperson said in an email.
They said Monday’s alert did not have immediate impact on passengers.
In a memorandum earlier this month, city staff said they’ve initiated a design and permitting process for a new fuel storage facility at AUS that would increase capacity.
Many neighbors have voiced safety concerns but the memo states those were evaluated. They also said no other site would meet all the screening criteria, like environmental safety and land code development.
The city has also said that the first phase of construction of the facility would take two years.
“I think we’re going to be dealing with the growing pains for, for an indefinite period of time, and we’re going to see those as we saw this morning,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.
As the airport grapples with their growing pains, Gadiano said she plans to get there extra early for her 7:00 a.m. flight on Tuesday, after a two-hour start put her sister in jeopardy.
“3:00 a.m.!” she said as she laughed. “I’m just afraid that, you know, in case the line will be the same again like this morning.”
“While operations have returned to normal, we continue to ask passengers to arrive a minimum of two hours in advance now through early April,” AUS officials said in tweet Monday.
The following breakdown represents daily AUS travelers from this past weekend, paired with Monday’s projected crowd size:
- Thursday, March 24: 26,503
- Friday, March 25: 27,434
- Saturday, March 26: 21,144
- Sunday, March 27: 30,991
- Monday, March 28: 28,651 projected
According to KXAN’s analysis of prior AUS travel data, Sunday marked the ninth busiest day in the airport’s history. Half of the top 10 busiest days have been this year.
Images from passengers outside the airport not only depicted security lines extending beyond the airport entrance, but also rental cars abandoned along the roadway and drop-off areas leading into the airport. In a statement, a spokesperson for the airport said the rental car situation began with one stalled-out car blocking the drop-off curb, and other drivers instructed to follow suit.
“What happened was one rental car stalled out at the drop-off curb. Rental car staff instructed the customers to go ahead and leave the vehicle with the keys in it. This caused other passengers with rental cars to follow suit, and leave their rental cars alongside the curb. Once airport staff was alerted to this, we got in touch with the rental car company to request additional staff be dispatched to the CONRAC to move the vehicles from the curb. Airport staff also responded by sending airport staff out to help direct traffic. Operations are now normal.”Austin-Bergstrom International Airport spokesperson