As airlines redraw their route networks, Austin is emerging as a clear winner.
On Tuesday, Allegiant announced that it’ll invest $75 million to open a new base at Austin airport’s South Terminal (AUS), creating at least 89 jobs and housIng three Airbus A320 aircraft.
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By opening a permanent base, Allegiant will station crew members and aircraft in the city, which could pave the way for the carrier to add more frequencies and expand its route network. The airline will immediately begin hiring pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and ground personnel to support the Austin operations.
“It makes perfect sense to establish a permanent base in Austin, further establishing Allegiant as a hometown airline in a city we love and where we plan to grow. Having locally-based operations will mean opportunities for expanded hours, as well as more – and more frequent – flight offerings for visitors and locals alike,” said Drew Wells, Allegiant’s senior vice president of revenue, in a statement.
Allegiant’s route network is notably different than the legacy carriers — there are no “hubs.” Instead, the Las Vegas-based airline operates an “out-and-back” model, meaning that flights start and end the day at one of 19 bases, instead of funneling operations through major hub airports. (That’s also a plus for flight crew, who return home nightly.)
Allegiant first started operating at AUS in October 2013 with just one route to Las Vegas (LAS). Since then, the carrier’s grown its Central Texas route-map to 14 nonstop destinations, including soon-to-launch service to Bozeman, Montana (BZN) and Bentonville, Arkansas (XNA).
More Allegiant routes: Allegiant unveils 34 nonstop routes for spring, summer schedule
When the new base opens on Nov. 18, 2021, Allegiant will face stiff competition for traffic. Austin is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, and there’s been a steady stream of companies moving into the Texas capital. Plus, with the city’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene, it’s a popular destination for leisure travelers.
So, it’s no surprise that airlines are noticing.
American Airlines recently unveiled ten new year-round and seasonal Austin routes beginning on May 6, in what the Fort Worth-based carrier is calling a “long-term” play that’s “at the front-end of our growth” in the city.
Despite the pandemic, American’s strategy appeals to both leisure travelers and corporate road warriors, who haven’t yet return to the skies en masse. The carrier is seemingly trying to position itself as the airline of choice for Austin-based travelers, though it’s not yet ready to call it a “focus city.”
Austin love: AA exec talks about the future of Austin
Less than two weeks ago, Southwest detailed its latest pandemic-era network expansion, which included seven new routes to Austin, bringing the summer 2021 total to a whopping 37 cities served nonstop from AUS.
In the announcement, Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s chief commercial officer, didn’t mince his words: “While other carriers have fallen in and out of love with Austin across the years, we’re continuing to build on nearly 45 years of offering affordable and relevant air service for Central Texans and those who are headed there.”
Meanwhile, Delta also remains committed to Austin — only two of the carrier’s five focus cities will survive the pandemic, with Austin and Raleigh-Durham (RDU) returning. (Former-hub Cincinnati (CVG), as well as Nashville (BNA) and San Jose will lose their focus-city status.)
More Delta news: Delta pares back San Jose, drops New York-JFK nonstop
It’s not just “Big 4” that are boosting Austin. Alaska, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue have all unveiled new routes to the city this year. The one notable exception is United, which continues to exclusively serve the city from its seven domestic hubs.
Featured photo by keithbwinn/Getty Images
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