The Surprising Ways People Are Using Austin As A Connecting City

Here’s some interesting data out of the Austin airport on the top routes that use Austin as a connecting city. With all of the growth at the Austin airport – more flights and more destinations – more passengers use Austin as a connecting city, not just a destination.

Internationally half of the top 10 routes where Austin is the connecting city are to Cancun. That’s not surprising. Everyone in the U.S. is flying to Cancun. That’s true even in normal times, but during the pandemic Mexico remained open to Americans and many resorts provided free testing once the U.S. required it for returns by air.

Three of the international routes are to Punta Cana. That American Airlines flight struggled (relatively speaking) so had cheap inventory, hence people finding good fares connecting to it.

A couple of observations about using Austin as a connecting city for domestic flights:

  • 3 of the top 10 domestic connecting routes are American departures originating at LAX. Los Angeles – Miami via Austin, something is wrong. Los Angeles to San Juan via Austin makes sense, though.

  • Connecting Dallas – Austin – San Juan actually makes sense (rather than flying non-stop from Dallas) because DFW doesn’t have a redeye while the Austin flight is a redeye (it used to be a redeye in both directions!).

While American Airlines has grown tremendously in Austin – quadrupling destinations and doubling flights – Southwest remains the largest carrier in the market by a wide margin. In fact it carries an even larger share of Austin traffic than it did three years ago, before the pandemic.

United and Delta have shrunk a bit. So has JetBlue. Allegiant has gown, while Spirit and Frontier have shrunk. Few would have guessed that of Delta, which still calls Austin a focus city.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Cool insights – I assume if there are connections at AUS, they are filling seats that otherwise would have gone unsold. If AA’s DEN flight isn’t one of those, I assume the O&D is filling seats on its own, which bodes well for it sustaining.

  2. What’s “wrong” with LAX-AUS-MIA? Its quite a direct route. Just because there are widebodies on LAX-MIA doesn’t make it wrong. Maybe people want some Salt Lick instead of the turkey ham sammich on AA. 😉

  3. With AUS as my co-home base with SAT, I fly a lot of weekday evening get home flights into AUS from all over.

    By the evening, a delay of 30-45 minutes has become my minimum expectation. No matter the origin, it’s become a ritual to hear, “I see a lot of you are on the San Juan flight tonight; don’t worry, we’ll be in Austin in plenty of time for you to connect.” Then walking out of a terminal emptying all but from the packed gate area awaiting the redeye.

    I do hope that AUS sorts out their TSA issues. The new nonstops from the (unofficial) newly minted focus city complement my needs so well to make the extra 15 minutes vs driving to SAT well worth it.

  4. What are the odds “Rafael” Cruz makes AUS his departure point for his next winter fact finding mission in Cancun?

  5. Are you kidding – I keep hoping that I get an AUS connecting option. Save a couple bucks, have some Salt Lick and a Shiner Bock – sold.

  6. Used the Condor AUS-FRA flight to Europe a couple years ago, bidness class. It was surprisingly good, and the transfer at AUS from AA was flawless, which made me a believer in Austin as a connecting city (I, too, took advantage of a Salt Lick dinner following the domestic flight.). Bravo. Hope Condor (or others) return with Europe and reasonable prices.

  7. So odd – all the AA routes except for LAS are to/from an actual hub. Seems crazy to originate in or be headed to a hub and then connect through AUS. If it’s cheaper, sure. But any other reason doesn’t compute.

    And sorry, but as it relates to AUS-SJU, who wants to take a 4.5 hour redeye (without lie-flats) to/from a leisure destination? That’s an awful way to start or end a vacation.

  8. Not connecting in the traditional sense through AUS (driving up from SAT) but AUS has so many better options/frequencies than SAT. Next week I’m driving to AUS to fly to SIN via SFO. At Christmas I’m flying LH AUS-FRA-MUC as there was award business space whereas SAT offered nothing. AUS will get more and more busy.

  9. The prices from Austin are cheaper … it’s been the cheapest route to many cities in Mexico that I’ve seen. I literally booked a short trip to Austin in order to fly out of there to Mexico since it was a fraction of the price compared to even LAX.

  10. There’s no SAN-AUS on AA. But there are three daily flights on Alaska.


  11. Twice I have routed LAS to CLT with a connection in AUS. Yes there are non-stops LAS to CLT and also plenty of connections through DFW, ORD and even LAX. However, both times I was using miles and there were web special first class awards available on the flights with a connection at AUS for less than coach awards on other routes. Easy decision for me.

  12. @gary Some how LAX-AUS-MIA is wrong? So I guess people who fly LAX-DFW-MIA are wrong, too? Can you elaborate or is this just another useless attempt for you to state “gary facts”. Or will you just make up some facts that aren’t actually true about how connecting is bad, looses money etc?

    Anything to avoid the disaster D is for me. DFW is a shit hole place with terrible operational reliability.

  13. It’s almost like cities with high natural O&D traffic should be hub cities, instead of picking whatever airport you can run the absolute cheapest operations in? Weird!

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