(Author – Kathryn Hardison) American Airlines Group Inc. announced on March 11 it is adding 10 nonstop routes at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport beginning this summer. The new flights signal airline executives’ confidence that air travel could soon return to more normal levels across the nation. But American leaders also stressed that they are doubling down on Austin in particular because of its immense growth as people and companies continue to flock to Central Texas.
American Airlines (Nasdaq: AAL) is adding twice-daily, nonstop service from Austin to Las Vegas; Nashville, Tennessee; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and the Washington D.C. area, according to the announcement. Nonstop, daily service will also be added to New Orleans; Orlando, Florida; and Tampa, Florida. Those services will be available year-round.
Three new seasonal routes will also begin this summer. From June 5 to Aug. 14, nonstop flights will be available on Saturdays to Los Cabos, Mexico, and Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Flights will also be available on Saturdays from June 5 to Sept. 4. to Aspen, Colorado.
Brian Znotins, vice president of network planning for American Airlines, said many factors contributed to the airline’s decision, such as the Austin area’s surging population and an anticipated pent-up demand for travel, especially as more people become fully vaccinated.
“Economic growth almost always means air travel growth,” Znotins said. “With the economic forecasts for Texas and Austin looking good going forward, we feel confident that the demand is there for these flights today and will be there in the future as Austin continues to grow, and we plan to grow along with it.”
Prior to this announcement, Fort Worth-based American operated 10 nonstop flights out of Austin, according to ABIA’s website, including to Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
ABIA recorded 10 straight years of record-breaking traffic until the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year, resulting in the lowest airport traffic since 1999. ABIA recorded 6,472,579 total passengers last year, down nearly 63% compared with 2019’s record-setting 17,343,729 passengers, according to airport data released last month. No data was available by publication time for airport traffic thus far in 2021.
“Today’s announcement is incredible news for Austin-Bergstrom travelers who will soon be able to enjoy a variety of new nonstop travel options, as well as a fantastic new destination in Aspen,” Jacqueline Yaft, CEO of ABIA, said in a statement. “As passenger confidence continues to improve, we appreciate American Airlines’ investment in Central Texas travel, and look forward to soon welcoming new visitors back to the Live Music Capital of the World.”
Like the other major airlines, the past year has been a brutal one for American. It lost 31,000 employees in 2020, according to regulatory filings.
But, with more support for airlines included in the latest federal stimulus bill that was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 10, the company no longer plans partial furloughs this spring, Dallas Business Journal reported.
“There aren’t going to be any furloughs at American Airlines in April and with vaccinations on the rise, hopefully never again,” American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said in an Instagram video posted March 10, DBJ reported.
American Airlines isn’t the only airline that’s focused on Austin’s growth. A Delta Air Lines Inc. executive told an investor conference earlier this month that Austin is now one of just two “focus cities” for the airline, alongside Raleigh-Durham.
Additionally, Alaska Airlines announced March 10 the launch of daily flights from Austin to Boise, Idaho, beginning July 17.
Allegiant Air announced last month nonstop flights starting this summer from Austin to Bozeman, Montana — about 90 miles from Yellowstone National Park — and Bentonville, Arkansas.
And in December, Hawaiian Airlines Inc. announced its first connection to Texas with service between Austin-Bergstrom and Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. The flights will begin in April.