The existing airport terminal is designed to accommodate 11 million passengers. By the end of this year, according to ABIA Planning and Development Manager Lyn Estabrook, nearly 16 million passengers are projected to pass through the airport. To handle the growth, the airport is in the midst of a $350 million terminal expansion to increase its passenger capacity and add more flights.
“It’s really cramped,” Estabrook said of the existing terminal. “People spill out into the hallways, we don't have enough gates, we can't add new flights because of that. So we really needed that (expansion) in terms of capacity.”
The expansion begin in the fall of 2016 and is scheduled to finish in the spring of 2019. According to Joe Sanders, project manager at Hensel Phelps, throughout the entirety of the project about 3,100 workers have been involved between the contracting and construction company’s own staff and subcontractors. During the busiest phases of the project, there were more than 400 workers on site each day.
Funding for the project came from airport revenues and bonds. The airport is a self-sustaining enterprise that operates outside the city of Austin’s municipal budget, meaning revenues generated at the airport stay there. The bonds will be repaid, according to Estabrook, from future revenue–including rental rates the airport receives from airlines.
The expansion project will add nine gates, including six capable of handling international flights. The existing terminal has two international gates. Other improvements include 29,000 additional square feet of added retail space, 48 additional outdoor acres to accommodate more flights and an outdoor observation deck where passengers can watch airplanes land and take off.
Vinita Clegg, project architect with architecture firm Gensler, said the observation deck will make Austin’s airport stand out from its national counterparts.
“It's something airports used to have, you used to be able to get close to aircrafts, and nowadays you can't because of security and all those reasons,” Clegg said. “This is a key element and it's going to be a huge attraction for adults and kids alike.”
The expanded space will bring expanded food and retail options. A food hall with a live music performance stage will feature sushi from Komé, sandwiches from Noble Sandwich Co., a draft beer taproom from Austin Beerworks and a shop from Hardies Fresh Food Market. Other new food and drink options include 24 Diner, Jugo Juice, Parkside, Salvation Pizza, Caffe Medici and Starbucks.
In the lounge area, according to Clegg, half the seats will have access to a USB charging point. It is amenities like that, Estabrook said, that will make the project about more than just getting more people in and out of the airport.
“Airports compete against each other. We really are a business that competes against San Antonio, Houston, Dallas,” Estabrook said. “And so the customer experience is really important to us.”