Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and has been for several years. Shortly after I came here in 2014, Jon Stewart did his show from the city and sent a reporter to the border cover ‘the immigration problem.’ The Austin border. Man on the street interviews typically elicited comments from residents like, “Austin is nothing like it was when I moved here.. 6 days ago.”
The Austin airport has been fast-growing as well. The main Barbara Jordan terminal opened 37% more gates just two years ago, and that’s not enough. American Airlines isn’t even the largest carrier in the city, yet it has tripled the number of destinations it’s serving in just two years. Southwest is growing, too, and Delta considers Austin a focus city.
In order to keep growing the airport they plan to tear down the low cost carrier terminal to make room for new taxiways, and allow them to build a midfield concourse for the main terminal.
The low cost “South Terminal” opened in 2017 and currently serves Allegiant and Frontier. Spirit Airlines is willing to pay higher rents to keep its passengers out of the glorified doublewide.
With the return to travel, and passenger growth at the airport, the South Terminal is seeing more passengers than ever before and it cannot fit them all. So passengers are being kept outside the terminal in tents. In the Central Texas summer.
This summer, we’re seeing record numbers of passengers, so we’ve added extra room with an air-conditioned tent set up in the VIP parking lot next to the terminal. If the terminal gets crowded, we may ask you to wait outside while we clear space for you.
This is expected only at peak Friday and Monday afternoons “generally around 4 pm” and it’s being called the “FestiveTent” where they promise “plenty of bathrooms, more food, an extra bar and a little bit of fun” instead of a terminal. (Currently food at the South Terminal is primarily provided via a food truck, currently De Nada tacos.)
Passengers relegated to the outside FestiveTent will hear announcements made by “Terminal Ambassadors” when it’s time to board and they’ll “work to get you inside quickly.”
It certainly seems this model of airport expansion would be a lot faster and cheaper than how airports usually do it. In fact it upends the entire FAA approach. Maybe it even calls into question the need for Passenger Facility Charges included in airline tickets altogether.