AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you’re planning on traveling through Austin’s airport this spring season, you’ll be in good company. Airport officials are anticipating a record March, spurred on by a busy event season.
Thousands are expected in Austin for SXSW, which starts March 10. Other events, such as Dell Match Play, NASCAR and Texas Relays are expected to draw large crowds this month, followed by the CMT Awards on April 2.
“We’re excited for the return of Spring Travel Season,” said Towanda Cordon, the airport’s acting deputy chief of operations. “AUS has taken steps to prepare the airport for the influx of travelers during March and April by coordinating with airlines and other on-airport partners to ensure we are staffed appropriately for the period. We ask that passengers plan ahead, arrive early, use our tips and pack their patience as our teams prepare for their arrival.”
Last year, more than 1.8 million passengers flew out of AUS in March, a new record high for the month, and at the time the busiest month ever. March 2022 now ranks as the seventh-busiest month of all time.
Those numbers are expected to be even higher this year. According to AUS officials, airlines are offering 10% more seats this March compared to last year.
With that in mind, here are some tips to successfully navigate AUS this spring season.
When should I arrive at the airport?
As a rule of thumb, airport officials recommend arriving 2.5 hours before departure for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights.
If you have more to do than just check in for your flight, like checking bags or returning a rental car, it’s recommended you arrive even earlier.
Passengers with TSA PreCheck and Clear can expect a faster security screening process. You can now enroll in PreCheck while at the airport. Learn more about the program here.
Where can I park?
If you need to part at the airport, visit ABIAParking.com. There, you can reserve a parking spot or check real-time parking availability before heading to the airport.
Airport officials recommended budgeting in extra time for shuttle service to the terminal. Shuttle buses run approximately every 15-20 minutes.
For passenger drop-off or pick-up, you can use either the upper level (departures) or lower-level (arrivals). Airport officials recommend using whichever level is least congested at the time.
If you’re flying with Allegiant Air or Frontier Airlines, your flight departs from the South Terminal, which is separate from the main Barbara Jordan Terminal. Passengers departing from the South Terminal are encouraged to park on-site. There is no shuttle service between the main terminal and the South Terminal.
Where can I check in for my flight?
If you’re not using online check-in, it’s important to note that ticket counters open at various times depending on the airline. You’re recommended to contact your airline directly for hours of operation.
Self-service kiosks are also located in the terminal to print boarding passes. Some airlines also offer curbside check-in outside on the upper level.
If you don’t have bags to check, you can head directly to security checkpoints.
What can I expect at security?
The airport now has four security checkpoints, all of which lead to all gates. Checkpoints open at 3 a.m. If you have TSA PreCheck and Clear, head to Checkpoints 1 and 2 West.
For guidance on how to pack and what items are prohibited, head to the TSA website. Bringing prohibited items will cause delays. Airport officials say event promotional items, bulky souvenirs and giveaways should be packed in carry-on luggage to prevent delays in the checked baggage security screening process.
Airport staff will be throughout the terminal to assist passengers if needed.
What if I need mobility assistance?
Passengers who need wheelchair assistance are asked to contact their airline before their travel date to set up the service.
The airport also offers a new service, SkySquad, which connects passengers with trained assistants to provide help from curbside to gate — from ticketing, checking bags, loading items onto the security belt and more. If you’re interested in using this service, you need to book 24 hours in advance on the SkySquad website or by calling 877-359-2256.
AUS also has a new mobility lounge, located on the ticketing/departures level, as well as a Mobility Assistance Zone, which provides priority pick-up access for passengers with limited mobility, including taxis and rideshares. The zone is located on the lower level one lane across from the G and H pick-up areas, and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
TSA Cares is also available at AUS. The helpline provides travelers with disabilities, medical conditions and other special circumstances additional assistance during security screening. For more information, call 855-787-2227.
What can I expect in the terminal after security?
The terminal itself has lots to offer including live music stages, new art installations and local restaurants. You can find more using a digital map on the airport’s website.
The airport has scheduled 52 live music performances across eight stages between March 13 and 17. A schedule of the ‘Live Music in the Air’ program is available here.