Austin airport is rapidly expanding to meet the needs of Texas’ capital city. The influx of new industries and the residential development of the surrounding areas left the airport bursting at the seams. Much of the current fanfare surrounded the addition of a new wing to the Barbara Jordan Terminal, adding many new gates and a swanky Delta SkyClub. However, in 2017 the airport was doing anything it could to alleviate the lack of gates.
Their interim solution? The South Terminal.
A 12 million dollar refurbishment of a building dating back to the airport’s life as the Bergstrom Air Force Base quickly provided the airport with 30,000 square feet and three additional gates.
Now that the airport has completed its expansion, which airlines would be willing to stay at a terminal that’s nowhere close to any of the other airport facilities? Frontier and Allegiant, of course.
Since I was looking for a dependable flight to Austin, I picked Frontier instead of American, forgetting that Frontier flew from the South Terminal. Fortunately, I received an email a few days before the flight, remininding me where the terminal was.
Since we were only flying to Austin on Frontier, I didn’t get to experience checking in at the terminal. Here’s our experience flying into Austin’s South Terminal.
Arriving at the terminal, you get to walk down to the tarmac. It was about 100 degrees the day we arrived but I managed to turn around and snap a picture of our plane.
The walkway to the terminal past the three “gates” was at least covered. We got to walk past the outside deck, which only one person was taking advantage of because of the heat. They did have some “mister-fans” set up but I don’t think they were helping much.
Once inside the terminal, we got to baggage claim. The flight attendant onboard did have some fun saying our bags would be arriving at baggage claim one. No surprise, there’s only one belt at the South Terminal.
Frontier was apparently the only airline operating from the terminal on the day we were there.
Once our bags arrived, which still took about 15-20 minutes, we had to get to the rental car facility since there are no rental cars at the South Terminal. That meant getting on the free shuttle to the main terminal.
It was your basic shuttle bus like you’d take to an off-site rental car location. But more like this was the bus you’d buy used after those companies ran it into the ground.
It felt like we drove totally around Austin to get to the airport. Honestly, it’s a nine-mile drive between the two, which took about 15 minutes.
Since we were flying into the South Terminal, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Besides the 15-minute shuttle ride, there wasn’t much difference from landing at the main terminal.
If you live in Austin, flying from the South Terminal isn’t that bad because there’s plenty of parking right outside and it costs as much as other off-site parking lots. The only problem would be if your flight is delayed, because the terminal is really just a renovated warehouse. The only concessions are a single taco truck and once you’re through TSA security, your choices are to sit inside or sit outside.
If you’re renting a car and flying out of the South Terminal, you need to return your car to the main terminal and then take the shuttle bus so you’d need to add at least 30 minutes (or more) to the time you’d get to the main terminal for a flight.
So no matter how hip and trendy the website may seem, the South Terminal at Austin Airport is as no-frills as it gets. Not to say that if you’re flying on Frontier or Allegiant you’d be expecting anything more, or less.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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Austin airport really sucks. We were connecting via AUS on our way to DEN last month and when we landed at 9 p.m. all the airport restaurants/shops were shut. Wanted to grab something to eat, but everything was closed and only a couple of vending machines were available. This was in the main terminal not the south terminal. For an airport of its size it was surely disappointing and the airport should really consider forcing its outlets to keep open till a later time in the day.
I’d also note that if you are picking someone up at the South Terminal, that lot with “plenty of room” often becomes full and you have no other option but to circle around and around. They will tell you to go the Ride Share/Taxi waiting parking lot but you can get kicked out of there if someone notices you do not have an Uber etc sticker.