The Next US Mega Airport? A Look At Austin’s Incredible Growth

Austin was the US’ third-fastest-growing airport between 2011 and 2019. This year, Alaska, Allegiant, American, and JetBlue will all be larger than before coronavirus, with an additional 1.3 million seats and 23 routes between them.

With 9.3 million seats added between 2011 and 2019, Austin is on a roll. It did even better on a percentage basis. With 81% more seats, it was the US’ third fast-growing airport, behind Orlando Sanford and Tampa St Pete but ahead of Charleston, San Jose, and Dallas Love. Austin ended 2019 as the US’ 33rd-largest airport, up by eight places over 2011.

Southwest was the single largest airline responsible for Austin’s growth, with over 2.7 million seats added. This was the result of its network almost doubling to 34 routes. Southwest’s development was followed by Delta (1.4 million), American (1.3 million), and United (nearly 1.1 million).

Spirit inaugurated the Texas airport in 2019, with over one million seats in its first year across 10 routes, OAG data reveals. Not to be outdone, fellow ultra-low-cost-carrier Frontier also significantly grew its capacity, before promptly cutting it again.

Austin’s capacity grew by 81% between 2011 and 2019. And while it’s obviously down in 2021, Alaska, Allegiant, American, and JetBlue will all grow this year. Note: Southwest’s 2021 data is available only until August. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer

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Four of Austin’s core airlines up this year

Fast-forwarding to 2021, four of Austin’s key airlines foresee strong growth this year over 2019, despite the continuing pressure from coronavirus:

  • American: up by almost 600,000 seats, +17%
  • JetBlue: +349,000, +51%
  • Alaska: +280,000, +38%
  • Allegiant: +66,000; +31%

These four carriers will have a combined 49 routes this year, up from 27 in 2019.

The combined routes of Alaska, Allegiant, American, and JetBlue from Austin in 2021. The four have a combined 40 destinations but 49 routes if competing routes are counted. Image: GCMap

First eight months of 2021 insightful

As Southwest’s flights aren’t yet bookable beyond mid-August, a full-year look isn’t possible for what is normally Austin’s leading airline. However, its capacity in the first eight months of 2021 is down by over 1.7 million (-35%), while it’s only marginally negative for American (down by <1%).

In contrast, Alaska is up by nearly one-quarter (23%), while JetBlue is higher still (+30%). JetBlue has nine routes from Austin this year, up from five in 2019. Cancun, Los Angeles (replacing Long Beach), Newark, Raleigh Durham, and San Francisco have all been introduced.

Of JetBlue’s existing routes, Boston has grown strongly, with three airlines on it. The market has 48 departures in mid-July, more than double the number (19) than in the same week in 2019.

JetBlue’s capacity at Austin has risen by 51% this year versus 2019. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Los Angeles has seven airlines

Austin-Los Angeles will now have seven airlines on it: American; Delta; JetBlue; Alaska; Southwest; United; and Spirit. This is up from five in 2019 with the addition of Alaska and JetBlue.

Filed capacity in this market has now passed the previous high, even though Southwest’s flights aren’t yet bookable, and therefore haven’t yet been filed, beyond mid-August. In mid-July, there will be 111 weekly departures between the two – around 16 a day – up from 81 in the same week in 2019.

Southwest is still Austin’s top carrier, despite its big cuts in the first eight months of this year and American’s rise. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

16 routes still to come this year

Austin has 16 routes to launch before mid-August, with a combined 95 weekly departures. Honolulu is the clear standout new route.

Destination Airline Start date Weekly departures (in week route begins)
Aspen American June 5th One
Boise Alaska June 17th Seven
Boston American May 6th 14
Bozeman Allegiant May 27th Two
Destin American June 5th One
Fayetteville (AR) Allegiant July 2nd Two
Honolulu Hawaiian April 21st Two (later three)
Las Vegas American May 6th Seven
Los Angeles Alaska March 18th Seven
Nashville American May 6th Seven
New Orleans American May 6th Seven
Orlando American May 6th Seven
Pensacola Spirit June 10th Three
Raleigh Durham American July 2nd Seven
Tampa American June 3rd Seven
Washington Dulles American August 17th 14

Booking data shows that Austin was Honolulu’s seventh-largest unserved point-to-point market on the US mainland in 2019. It had approximately 39,000 round-trip passengers, rising to around 83,000 for the whole of Hawaii.

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