AUSTIN (KXAN) — As low-cost carriers such as Frontier and Allegiant continue to expand, the City of Austin’s Department of Aviation is hoping to cash in on their growth. On Thursday, the Austin City Council voted to allow the lease of the South Terminal at Austin Bergstrom International Airport to Highstar Capital IV, L.P., a global low-cost airport operator.
“What this terminal will help us do is help alleviate the limited space we have at our 25 gate terminal right now,” said ABIA spokesman Jim Halbrook. “If airlines could move here, if it fits their business model, it could help alleviate crowding we have right now.”
The South Terminal is located south of the main terminal. In 2008, ABIA opened the low-cost terminal and for more than a year VivaAerobus offered nonstop flights to Mexico from the location. When the economy collapsed, VivaAerobus discontinued its service, leaving the terminal vacant for the past few years.
The terminal won’t have jet bridges and automated baggage handling systems but there are 1,100 public parking spaces.
Allegiant and possibly Frontier airlines want to start running operations out of the South Terminal by this winter. An agreement will still have to be reached by all parties and approved by council.
If the two airlines settle in the South Terminal, it could mean more low-cast fares for passengers, which flyers like Nicole Hendersen approve of. She and her family are flying Allegiant for the first time.
“We are taking our first trip to Florida; we’re going to take the kids to Disney World,” said Hendersen. “Interested in it both because it’s affordable and has the nonstop, so it takes less time to travel with the kids.”
She’s also dealt with the morning rush at ABIA.
“If you’re on a tight timeline, or traveling with kids, it can test your patience!” said Henderson.
Negotiations will now continue, and Council will likely vote on the issue again toward the end of the summer. If approved, the lease would be up to 30 years.
A new public parking garage with about 750 spaces is expected to open on the lower level of CONRAC, or Consolidated Rental Car Facility, at the end of the month.
The upper levels of CONRAC will serve the airport’s car rental companies and won’t be fully operational until October.