Points, miles, and snide remarks.


BloodbAAth at Bergstrom: AA Slashes Almost Half of AUS Routes, Threatening Mini-Hub Status

American Airlines’ sudden move to axe 21 out of 46 routes at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), as quietly revealed by Cirium data, has sent shockwaves through the frequent flyer community. This significant cut is a detrimental blow, effectively scaling down what was shaping up to be a ‘mini-hub’ into more of a standard focus city.

The airport has grown at a breakneck pace in the past five or so years, evolving into something of a reliever hub for AA’s DFW fortress 190 miles to the north. During IRROPS at DFW, it wasn’t uncommon for agents to reroute passengers through AUS for connecting flights when nonstop options were limited from DFW.

Curiously, despite the announced route cancellations, the airline has continued to sell flights that are due to be axed. It raises a question—Is American pulling a Qantas here? While it’s unlikely there’s any correlation here, it’s interesting to note that former AA CEO “Discount Doug” Parker recently joined the board at the Australian flag carrier.

The Austin area has been a thriving hotspot, experiencing tremendous growth driven by the tech industry and its vibrant local culture. I miss my previous role requiring frequent visits to the Texas capital, even though the company’s Concur portal forbid us from staying at Hyatt’s many wonderful downtown properties, forcing me to resort to the airport Hyatt Place. The local culture, food, and music scene is unlike any other, and people are generally quite friendly.

While crowding issues persist, my soft spot for Austin-Bergstrom Airport remains intact. The Admirals Club stands out, offering modest facilities but top-notch service from the AAngels—leaving visitors feeling like VIPs (I’m not the only one who has noticed this). The diverse range of local food and beverage options on the airport concourse also sets AUS apart, a refreshing contrast to the typical airport fare of Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s found at many airports in the U.S. (though I am a sucker for Auntie Anne’s). The airport has long featured an outdoor observation deck, though that’s no longer open to the public as Chase has transformed it into a terrace for CSR cardholders.

Photo I took of the view from the outdoor terrace at AUS, shortly before it closed to make way for the Chase Sapphire Terrace (C) Points & PDBs

Getting in and out of AUS is relatively straightforward, and despite complaints by some about long security lines, as a member of both CLEAR and TSA PreCheck, I’ve never waited more than a minute or two for screening, even on the worst days. The walk to the rental car facility might confuse newcomers, but as a seasoned pro, the convenience of a quick walk through the parking garage outweighs waiting for a shuttle (and the National staff at AUS are wonderful).

However, AUS has its fair share of challenges, as highlighted in a comment made on our site by industry expert Gary Leff of View From the Wing, who is based in Austin. His insights shed light on the airport’s growing pains, pointing out the surge in flights overshadowing premium air traffic. Gate squatting and the absence of significant capacity growth until a midfield terminal is established further compound the issues. The impending demolition of the South Terminal while accommodating other carriers in the main terminal without extra gates adds to the complexity. Leff states that “right now Austin is overall a place that yields go to die.”

Moreover, the downturn in the tech sector, marked by layoffs and hiring freezes, could impact Austin’s economy disproportionately. Virgin Atlantic last week announced its exit from Austin, citing the softening in the tech sector – though Leff seemed to think they weren’t telling the whole story.

I’ve always questioned the sustainability of having a mini-hub just 190 miles away from DFW. It was certainly nice to have AUS as an alternative to DFW or CLT when flying out of my home airport, TUL. Most of the time I’d choose DFW barring a substantial price difference, but those substantial differences did materialize often (probably a result of poor yields at the airport). Losing AUS-TUL, usually operated by a comfortable Embraer E175, is going to hurt. Southwest continues to operate the route, though I’d happily kill some time at DFW before I’d subject myself to a flight on WN.

The extensive list of route cuts includes destinations such as Washington Dulles (IAD), Tampa (TPA), Cozumel (CZM), my home airport of Tulsa International (TUL), and others, effective between January and April 2024. The full list, uncovered by industry observer Adrian Waltz, is below: