San Antonio City Council considers international airport expansion plan for ‘world-class’ facility

Strategic Development Plan includes new terminal complex, more parking, longer runway for international flights

SAN ANTONIO – A new terminal, more capacity for flights, passengers, and longer international flights are part of an airport development plan the San Antonio City Council is considering.

The city’s director of airports, Jesus Saenz Jr., presented city council members with a new Strategic Development Plan to expand the San Antonio International Airport’s capacity and turn it into a “world-class” facility. The plan is an “envisioning document,” he said, providing a path up to 2040 that would prepare the airport for the city’s expected growth and rising demand for the airport.

The plan includes a unified terminal complex with a brand-new Terminal C and a reconstructed Terminal A. It would also extend the longest runway from 8,500 to 10,000 feet, opening more possibilities for long-haul international flights.

“We’ll be able to reach parts of Southeast Asia, and we’ll be able to go deep into Europe once we complete that work,” Saenz said. “And we can go as far south as Antarctica for those that want to go there.”

Other aspects of the plan include redesigning traffic flow, more parking, and better baggage collection.

The various developments would be paid for through airport revenues, which city staff say would not affect the larger city budget. The recently passed $1.75 trillion federal infrastructure bill and other federal funding are also expected to play a role.

The master plan for the airport has to be updated every 10 years, but the staff and others involved in its creation say there’s more hanging on this 20-year plan than its predecessors.

The plan was developed with some advisory help from the Airport System Development Committee, which Mayor Ron Nirenberg created in 2017. The committee had looked at possible futures for the airport, including possibly moving it or developing a regional airport between San Antonio and Austin. Ultimately, though, the committee decided that expanding the current site was best.

Chairman John Dickson said the committee endorsed the new Strategic Development Plan and said it should be put into action.

“In 2010, we went through the same process, and that Strategic Development Plan is what we call in the I.T. world ‘shelfware.’ It is -- it was un-acted upon. If you go to the 2000 Strategic Development Plan -- largely un-acted upon.”

The city council is expected to vote on adopting the plan at its Nov. 18 council meeting.

During the council’s discussion Wednesday, District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez recalled a conversation he had had with a Spanish tourism official during a visit to try to promote San Antonio for more business opportunities. The official, Pelaez said, told their group that they already knew San Antonio and loved it.

“‘It’s just really that your airport is substandard, and it makes you guys irrelevant,’” Pelaez recounted the official telling them. “‘So let us know when you’ve got a better airport, right?’”

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.