Sep 21, 2023 - News

San Antonio gets first nonstop flight to Europe

Illustration of a cactus with flowers in the shades of the German flag colors.

Illustration of a cactus with flowers in the shades of the German flag colors. Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

San Antonio International Airport will get its first nonstop flight to Europe when Condor adds service to Frankfurt, Germany, next summer.

Why it matters: The flight raises San Antonio's global profile and accomplishes a longtime goal of elected officials and business leaders.

  • It will connect San Antonio to the world, with flights in Frankfurt to 300 destinations in 98 countries.

Plus, Frankfurt is an international business hub. A nonstop flight opens up potential for new business growth in the Alamo City.

  • Companies in pharmaceuticals, automaking, advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity could all benefit from more access to Frankfurt, city manager Erik Walsh told reporters.

Context: The move comes as the city is in the early stages of a $2.5 billion airport revamp intended in part to attract such flights.

What they're saying: "This is probably the most historic announcement we could make with regard to air service in San Antonio," Mayor Ron Nirenberg told reporters. "There is a strong belief in the future of air service in San Antonio."

  • "Our region is better positioned to support and attract new corporate growth and, in turn, develop greater career opportunities for San Antonians here today and those we'll attract in the future," Greater: SATX president Jenna Saucedo-Herrera said in a statement.

Details: German airline Condor will launch nonstop service on May 17, 2024. It will initially run through Sept. 6, 2024, after which the airline will determine future frequency, Mikko Turtiainen, Condor's director of sales for the Americas, told reporters.

  • The 10- to 11-hour flight will run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Zoom in: San Antonio currently offers international flights to just five cities in Mexico: Cancun, Guadalajara, Leon, Mexico City and Monterrey.

Driving the news: Condor's decision shows demand in San Antonio to travel to Europe, officials said.

  • In 2022, more than 300 passengers per day traveled from San Antonio to Europe.
  • That's likely to increase with a nonstop flight, airport director Jesus Saenz says.

Yes, but: Officials want Germans and Europeans to visit San Antonio more, too, and will launch new efforts to market the city internationally.

State of play: While San Antonio International is loved for its quick and easy access, it has long been the target of complaints from business leaders and residents about limited nonstop flights and a plain atmosphere.

  • Residents traveling for business or leisure sometimes head up I-35 to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for more flight options, a reality that frustrates many city officials.
  • Austin-Bergstrom offers nonstop flights to three European cities — London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam — as well as flights to Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

By the numbers: Officials expect a $34 million economic impact to San Antonio as a result of the flight, Nirenberg says.

  • The city offered about $1.3 million in incentives to Condor, Saenz says.

The big picture: San Antonio is in the midst of a decades-long overhaul of San Antonio International Airport.

  • The centerpiece of the plan is a new terminal, expected to open by early 2028, and meant to expand capacity as the region grows. The airport has seen record passenger volume over summer holidays this year.

Between the lines: Design for the new terminal includes extra space for more international flights. The new terminal can house up to three wide-body aircraft, typically used on international flights.

  • Existing terminals don't have room for those airplanes unless officials close two gates to hold them.

What's next: Grab your passport and your travel pillow and get ready to book. Tickets are on sale now.

  • A roundtrip, premium economy ticket is around $1,200.

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