AUSTIN (KXAN) — We are just days away from a string of busy weekends for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport that are expected to break a record.
Austin City Limits Music Festival kicks off this week, followed by week two, and then the Formula 1 race, which is expected to rush in a record number travelers, said airport spokesperson Sam Haynes.
Haynes said the last two F1 races brought record numbers of passengers here, and that’s expected to happen again in just a couple weeks.
“That is because we know that F1 sold out and has done some reworking of the track to sell even more tickets and bring in more people,” she explained in an interview with KXAN last week.
Haynes added although ACL Fest probably won’t crack their top 10 busiest days, they expect the Monday after F1 to likely set a new record.
She also said airlines are offering 29% more seats than they did in October 2019.
That means if every flight sells out and none of them are canceled, Austin will see a 29% increase in passengers this month compared to October 2019, Haynes said.
Haynes said to meet anticipated demand, the airport is ramping up its preparations for more passengers.
- Requesting more TSA officers through the end of the month to help with screening. Haynes said the TSA granted this request.
- Hosting a job fair last month to fill vacancies before ACL Fest and F1 weekends
- Having a plan to activate the department operations center during peak travel times to respond to any emergency
- Training staff from other departments, like human resources, finance and planning to help passengers navigate the airport and lines
“It looks like a lot of coordination calls. It looks like a lot of daily, weekly calls with our partners, checking in with them,” Haynes said.
Down the road, airport expansion plans show relief for congested weekends like these, said Matt Geske, vice president of regional local policy.
He said one example is a pedestrian tunnel.
Geske traveled with city leaders to Salt Lake City’s airport recently to see what that would look like and said it sparked even more ideas for Austin’s future plans.
“The one thing that we are still considering here in Austin is outside of doing the people movers between the two terminals, could we get creative? Could we have like a little subway system?” he said.
Geske said he’s not speaking for airport officials, but it’s something other leaders are wondering.
“That would be something long term. I wouldn’t say [it would] hold up the project. That would be something that we’d be looking at once people are actually using it,” he said.
Another idea Geske said they want to incorporate in Austin is the idea of a “welcome room,” which Salt Lake City airport officials designed to hold folks who gather to welcome kids home from mission trips.
“It’s this really cool, big, open — huge windows, behind or in front of security. So, they don’t go through security,” Geske explained.
He said leaders are considering how to incorporate that into Austin’s vibe.
“Austin is known for live music. It’s known for food. So, could we have, you know, open-air music venues or something like that?” Geske said. “Especially for our special events, like Formula 1 out of COTA or South by Southwest or ACL?”
Overall, Haynes said this will be a record-breaking year for the airport. They’ve already been setting records for single, busiest days and months — most recently in May.
Airport recommendations for travelers
Haynes said people going through TSA screening should get to the airport at least two-and-a-half hours before your domestic flight departs or three hours before international flight departures.
- Passengers that need to check luggage, return a rental car or complete other activities before joining the TSA security line should arrive even earlier.
- TSA PreCheck and Clear users can expect a faster security process than those using general TSA screening. On-site TSA PreCheck enrollment is now offered to passengers after they are cleared through security through a new enrollment program, which you can learn more about here.
- Highways near the airport are expected to be busy, especially during the Formula 1 race weekend. Passengers should plan accordingly for their route and travel time to the airport.
- The TSA has reported AUS passengers continue to bring a record number of guns to security checkpoints this year. Bringing prohibited items, like firearms and liquids exceeding 3.4 ounces, will cause delays for passengers. Passengers can visit TSA.gov for guidance on how to pack and what items are allowed in carry-on luggage.
- Event promotional items, bulky souvenirs and giveaways should be packed in carry-on luggage to prevent delays in the checked baggage security screening process.