Jan 29, 2024 - News

San Antonio International Airport broke travel records in 2023

Illustration of a plane with contrails forming an upwards trend line.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

San Antonio International Airport had its busiest year ever in 2023.

Why it matters: Air travel in San Antonio has not only recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic but returned even stronger.

  • City officials have asserted in recent years the airport would continue to grow, bolstering the case for the $2.5 billion expansion plan currently underway.

By the numbers: Nearly 10.7 million passengers flew through SAT last year, a 3% increase over the previous record of 10.4 million passengers set in 2019, per the airport.

  • Last month was also the busiest December ever recorded at SAT, with 968,469 passengers — the first time that figure surpassed 900,000 for that month.

Plus, the airport has broked monthly passenger records every consecutive month since May of last year.

What they're saying: "We are on cloud nine," airport director Jesus Saenz said in a statement. "We know how much hard work went into it all — with new routes announced domestically and internationally."

  • Airport officials are planning for even more in 2024, Saenz said.

Details: This year we are scheduled to see the launch of new routes and the expansion of existing services. It's also the year SAT is slated to get its first nonstop service to Europe. The airport has at least 45 nonstop destinations now.

  • Spirit Airlines began nonstop service to Tampa this month and is slated to launch daily nonstop service to Newark in April.
  • Condor Airlines is scheduled to begin nonstop service to Frankfurt in May, representing SAT's first nonstop flight to Europe.
  • In June: VivaAerobus is slated to launch nonstop service to Torreon, Mexico; Southwest Airlines to offer nonstop flights to Burbank, near Los Angeles; and American Airlines to begin nonstop flights to Philadelphia.

The big picture: Last year demonstrated people's desire to return to air travel following the end of pandemic restrictions, a followup to 2022 when Americans saw the summer of "revenge travel."

Zoom in: Passenger levels at SAT had been growing in 2019, just before the pandemic hit.

State of play: SAT has long been considered small and quiet — something many travelers appreciate in comparison to Austin's airport, which sees upward of 20 million passengers a year. But as the region's population grows, SAT is becoming ever-more bustling.

  • The airport's $2.5 billion expansion plan includes a new terminal that could open by 2028.
  • It aims for a sleeker look with added capacity for more flights and more food and drink options.

What we're watching: How passenger numbers compare in 2024, when the April 8 total solar eclipse is expected to bring more than a million travelers to Texas; and how officials keep up with the growth before the new terminal opens.

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