The San Antonio International Airport gets a ton of criticism. I think much of that is well-deserved.
We’re lacking non-stop flights to many key airports such as Boston and Reagan in Washington, D.C. Many flights are also more expensive tha comparable routes out of Austin or other Texas cities. The food and beverage options in the terminal are bland and boring. For some reason, passengers can't move between terminals once past security.
My data: I’ve flown nearly 50 segments in the past twelve months. So, I’ve seen the good and bad.
I believe that SAT is actually pretty great compared to the experiences in other airports.
We forget the advantages our airport offers:
• We’re one-hop to the majority of destinations anywhere. Except for JetBlue, we have nonstops to every major airlines’ hubs. With the “banked schedule” structure that American, United, Delta and others run out of those hubs, you’re a 45-60 minute connection to almost anywhere.
• The airport is right in the middle of town. I live a 5-minute drive away from the airport. For 7am flights, I’ve left my house at 6:05am, breezed to TSA pre and been at the gate by 6:25am after buying a coffee. Compared to Houston’s Bush or DFW, this is a joy. Or, the folks living in north Austin trying to get to their airport quickly? Forget about it.
• We’re served by almost every major carrier. As mentioned previously, the big hole currently is JetBlue who operates hubs in Boston, JFK in New York and Ft Lauderdale. I think it’s just a matter of time until that’s fixed, though. Virgin would be good, too, though they’ve recently merged with Alaska.
• The city government actually cares about the airport. Look at JFK or La Guardia in New York City. They’re a mess that the government seems to have forgotten. Or, try Logan in Boston. The terminals are like the closet in Being John Malkovich. San Antonio keeps pumping dollars into new terminals, garages and commissions to work on the airport. That’s a good thing.
• It’s super-easy. Rental cars are right outside the arrivals hall. If you’re not checking bags, TSA security is 75ft from the entry door. Pretty great if you compare that to the half-mile or more you walk at a DFW, Denver or Houston after getting on a train.
• Non-stops are getting contested. Airlines charge a premium when they're the only carrier on a route. For example, United has charged huge prices on their SAT->San Francisco non-stop for several years. This past year, both Southwest (SAT->Oakland) and Frontier (SAT->SJC) have started. This is pushing down fares and will do so more in the future.
The best news is the airport is getting better as the economy and population grow here. The airport had its busiest year ever, which is great.
As long as we can keep the monkeys under control, it’ll continue to be just fine compared to the downsides of many other airports around the country.