May 9, 2023 - News

Brace for air travel hell in Austin and beyond

Illustration of a golden airplane wing pin with a woozy or confused emoji.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Austin airport officials are expecting a record-breaking summer for air travel, echoing warnings from airlines, national aviation officials and the Transportation Security Administration.

Driving the news: Flying is shaping up to be an absolute nightmare, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick writes.

  • A record number of travelers will likely pass through the country's airports this summer, TSA administrator David Pekoske told Bloomberg.
  • Plus, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport officials told Axios that they're expecting a record-breaking summer, starting in mid-May.

Why it matters: It's unusual for all these powers that be to hint so loudly that we're in for a rough few months — and travelers would be wise to heed their warnings.

  • The latest Southwest Airlines snafu, where data connection issues briefly halted departures, is a reminder of how quickly a relatively small problem can cause big headaches.
Data: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: AUS is expected to regularly see upward of 30,000 departing travelers a day, and some days could even reach over 40,000, per airport officials.

  • It's already been a busy year, with three of the airport's five busiest days ever occurring in March, as South by Southwest and spring break converged.
  • Last year's U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas brought in the record for the most passengers in a single day — 43,177 on Oct. 25.

What's happening: AUS continues to fill staffing vacancies and support recruitment efforts, a spokesperson said.

  • Airport officials are also working to improve the baggage handling system, and — through a partnership with TSA — travelers can expect new screening equipment and additional security lanes at checkpoints.

The bottom line: If you have plans to fly this summer, get to the airport early, prepare for delays and cancellations, and have a Plan B — and maybe C and D — ready.


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