AUSTIN (KXAN) — Already planning your next getaway? You may be able to fly direct from Austin, as the airport’s list of nonstop destinations continues to expand into the new year.
Seven new flights have already been scheduled from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for 2023, with at least two more expected.
The new routes take flight as early as New Year’s Day, with Spirit Airlines joining American Airlines and Southwest Airlines in offering a nonstop route to Miami.
Also in January, Southwest will launch a brand-new seasonal route to Montrose, Colorado, for those looking to hit the slopes. And soon after, American will launch a seasonal route to Memphis, joining Allegiant Air in serving the route.
Later in the year, American will begin nonstop flights to two Floridian cities, as well as Sacramento, California, while Spirit will launch a new route to Baltimore.
Meanwhile, airport officials tell KXAN Spirit will resume flights to Detroit and Southwest is set to relaunch its route to Pensacola, Florida, at some point in the new year. Both of those flights were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new routes join 26 others that were launched in 2022, including new international destinations like Vancouver, Montego Bay, Monterrey and Amsterdam. Flights to Frankfurt also resumed after a pause during the pandemic.
“In 2023, we’re looking forward to connecting Austinites and Central Texan travelers to more nonstop destinations,” airport spokesperson Sam Haynes told KXAN. “We are grateful to our airline partners for their strong investment in our community, as it has allowed us to become one of the strongest recovering airports in the country after the COVID-19 pandemic grounded flights across the globe.”
Busy year heading into 2023
Indeed, passenger traffic is already above pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 17.3 million passengers flew out of AUS, which at the time was a record high.
Between January and October this year, more than 17.5 million passengers boarded a flight from AUS, surpassing the previous record. Passenger totals from November and December have not yet been released.
Airport officials say when looking to establish a new route, they look at historical trends and consider what destinations might be a good fit for leisure and business travelers.
“We regularly talk with our airline partners to recommend new opportunities for them to consider,” Haynes said. “Ultimately, the selection of a route and launch of a new service is up to the airlines, who base route selection based on their business needs.”
The airport does help sweeten the deal. In 2019, KXAN reported on a series of incentives given to airlines who bring certain new routes to AUS, both domestic and international. Incentives include waived landing and facility fees as well as marketing and advertising costs.
Hawaiian Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines both took advantage of the incentives offered, bringing new direct flights to Honolulu and Amsterdam.
Incentives for new domestic routes are currently frozen as the airport focuses on attracting new international routes, according to Haynes.
“A lot of attention is focused on which routes will help fill in missing coverage from our existing routes and how will a route deliver benefits to the wider Austin community,” Haynes told KXAN. “For example, with our priority routes of Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing, any one of these would fill the gap of coverage in service to Asia. We have many companies in Austin who have headquarters or a presence in Asia who would greatly benefit from direct service.”
Dublin and Paris also appear on the airport’s priority destination list.
Nonstop flights to Paris nearly came to fruition. Norwegian Air announced in October 2019 it would begin service in May 2020, but the route was canceled due to the pandemic.
The airline later announced it would not start the route at a later date, saying it wanted to focus on shorter flights within Europe. The airline also canceled its nonstop route to London Gatwick from Austin.