Mexico travel demand fueling major airport expansion in San Antonio

May 22, 2022

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Amid surging demand for service to Mexico and other international destinations, officials in San Antonio are planning major changes that will transform the passenger experience at San Antonio International Airport (SAT) in the years to come.

The plans include new gates already in the works, terminal improvements, runway renovations, upgraded baggage, parking and ground transportation facilities, and an entirely new terminal expected to open within the next six years.

Airport officials detailed the plans — which are expected to cost billions of dollars over the coming two decades — to San Antonio’s city council last week.

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A big part of the need for improvements is a huge spike in demand for international travel, Airports Director Jesus Saenz said. He told city leaders, in 2021 alone, the airport saw a 60% jump in international traffic compared to pre-pandemic 2019; growth he believes is nowhere close to finished.

“A lot of that right now is Mexico,” Saenz said, “And we have more future expansion plans we’re working on,” mentioning airport officials are eyeing between 12 and 20 new additional international destinations.

San Antonio is just one of many U.S. airports that have seen surging demand to Mexico over the last couple years.

Related: 14 of TPG’s favorite points hotels on the beach in Mexico

On top of the international traffic, city documents reveal leaders anticipate passenger traffic in general will likely come close to doubling over the next 20 years in San Antonio.

Currently, construction crews are working to add two new gates in San Antonio’s Terminal B, which airport leaders say will help bolster American Airlines’ operation.

san antonio airport renovations renderings
Gates highlighted in red show the new B-concourse gates in the works at San Antonio International Airport (SAT). (Rendering courtesy of the City of San Antonio)

The airport is also adding a new Gate A16.

airport renovations renderings san antonio
New A-gate in the works in San Antonio. (Rendering courtesy of the City of San Antonio)

These three new gates – added to the airport’s existing 24 gates – are expected to boost potential passenger capacity by about 13%, leading to more than a million new enplanements annually.

Related: Road trips from San Antonio

As airport officials plan for renovations to existing terminal facilities to go along with major runway improvements, there’s even bigger plans in the works for an entirely new Terminal C.

airport renovations renderings san antonio
This rendering shows the plans for a new 17-gate Terminal C in San Antonio, which would include an. international arrivals hall. (Rendering courtesy of the City of San Antonio)

The new terminal is expected to include space for up to 17 new gates, including several international gates and a new international arrivals hall, along with a wider concourse and improved concession options.

Planning is underway for that new terminal, and while a lengthy contracting and construction process is yet to come, airport officials hope it would open by the spring of 2028.

A Volaris aircraft is seen at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images)

San Antonio currently serves 40 destinations in the U.S. and Mexico. In addition to flights to many of the major hubs of U.S. legacy carriers, the airport also has service on a growing list of low-cost airlines like Allegiant, Breeze, Frontier and Sun Country. International carriers Viva Aerobus, AeroMexico and Volaris offer nonstop service from San Antonio to Mexican destinations in Mexico City, Leon, Guadalajara and Cancun.

Featured photo courtesy of San Antonio International Airport via Facebook.

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