ABIA Update

Yes, I’ve been very delinquent, and a blog entry is long overdue. I’ve been traveling quite a bit recently, so I decided to get back into a blogging habit with an update on the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (aka “ATX”). The airport celebrated its 20th anniversary in May and also set a record for most passengers in one month (over 1.5 million). As a twenty-something, it was clearly time for a makeover.

The airport’s main terminal has recently been expanded eastward, adding another nine gates for a total of 34 gates. This change required renumbering the old gates so that everything stayed in numerical order. For people like me who just went by location anyhow, this wasn’t a big deal. Only a few of the new gates are being used right now, but this big, open space was obviously designed to handle crowds. I’ve read that two of the new gates have dual jetbridges to handle larger planes.

A dramatic, circular Delta Sky Club lounge has just opened at the far eastern end of the terminal. Except for a few small kiosks, the shops or restaurants aren’t ready yet in the expanded area.

The terminal expansion includes numerous displays that are filled with work by local artists. Even the entrance to the restrooms are artsy. In my opinion, anything that makes air travel more relaxing is a good thing.

New food options have popped up back in the original part of the terminal. Almost every space has been replaced or rebranded with the names of local brands. The sad-looking area that used to house Auntie Anne’s has been replaced by a food court featuring Juiceland, Peached Tortilla, and other local offerings. (Tear. I will need to get my pretzel fix elsewhere now.)

One of the dining spaces has been replaced by a Hut’s Hamburgers. Soon this will be the only Hut’s location, as their downtown Sixth Street restaurant is closing later this year. Annie’s is another example where the downtown restaurant has closed, and only the airport version is left. (Two more tears. Let’s not make this a trend, Austin.)

Our airport now contains a few quirky, Keep-Austin-Weird features. This CVS vending machine is sitting in the expanded section of the terminal. I assume the airport’s merchandise stores are still selling these types of pharmacy items, too. By the way, most of those stores (plus the bookstore) have also been remodeled.

An Earl Campbell’s taco truck is parked near the reconfigured Asleep at the Wheel live music stage. I’ve never associated Earl Campbell with tacos, but whatever. Not to worry: Tacodeli now has a presence at the terminal, so all taco needs are covered.

I noticed two automated coffee dispensers in the terminal. It’s a huge building now, so maybe another one is hiding somewhere. The main coffee bar—the one near the music stage where you must interact with a human—has been rebranded from Austin Java to Jo’s. The serve-yourself-and-pay-cash option is still available there (no human interaction required).

There’s been changes outside the main terminal, too. The cell phone lot was relocated and now includes a convenience store, a gas station, and an Austin Java (so that’s where it went!). New gigantic parking garages and long-term lots have been built. A much-smaller South Terminal (five miles south on Rt. 183) serves discount airlines such as Allegiant and Frontier. However, traffic congestion is still an issue, especially outside main terminal baggage claim during peak passenger pick-up times. And don’t get me started on all the road construction around the airport…

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