AUSTIN ANSWERED: Where does money spent at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport go?

  • Anusha Lalani
  • American-Statesman Staff
4:05 p.m Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 Local
A host of popular Austin eateries can be found in the west food court at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Before you take off for your well-deserved vacation or business conference, you might end up spending a little money at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on food or gifts. So where does all the money spent in the terminal go?

When we looked for the answer to this reader-submitted question, we found out that what you pay at the airport stays at the airport.

The revenue the airport makes from non-airline costs goes to cover operational costs and future improvements, said airport spokesman Jim Halbrook. Operational costs include expenses for lighting, air conditioning, building maintenance and cleaning, and improvements include a six-story parking garage.

“The airport doesn’t rely on (the city of Austin’s) general fund, for example, to operate,” Halbrook said. “It’s a law, too.”

The law Halbrook refers to is the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982, which requires airports to keep the revenue they generate to cover operating and other costs.

“All revenues generated by the airport, if it is a public airport, will be expended for the capital or operating costs of the airport, the local airport system, or other local facilities which are owned or operated by the owner or operator of the airport and directly related to the actual transportation of passengers or property,” the law states.

An annual sustainability report explains the airport’s progress for that year in terms of revenue and new developments, non-airline costs and airline costs. The total airline revenue for 2016 was about $58 million, whereas the non-airline revenue for that year was about $78 million. The non-airline costs include parking and ground transportation, rental car fees, terminal concessions and other fees.

Halbrook said it’s valuable to have higher non-airline revenue than airline revenue because it makes the airport more attractive for airlines to do business with it.

“The more non-airline revenue you can generate, that means you don’t have to charge your airlines as much in rent and other services that we provide them,” Halbrook said. “For example, rental fees for baggage carousels, ticket counters, gates, jet bridges, that kind of thing — by reducing their costs to do business at this airport, we make this airport more attractive for airlines to bring flights to.”

For more information on airport expenses and to access the sustainability reports, visit the airport’s website at austintexas.gov/airport.

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