Ready to thaw out? Austin airport announces 2 new American Airlines flights to beach destinations this summer
With new destinations to Cozumel, Mexico and Montego Bay, Jamaica beginning June 11, American Airlines will offer 40 total flights from the rapidly-growing airport, including eight international routes.
In just over a year, American has added 30 new destinations from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which saw a record number of new flights in the second pandemic year. The airport has announced a massive 2040 master plan in lieu of ballooning growth, with plans to add 10 new gates, an underground tunnel, an American Airlines Admirals Club and other nifty add-ons already in the works.
“We’re proud to strengthen our commitment to Austin by providing local customers more options to fly nonstop to popular destinations,” Brian Znotins, American's Vice President of Network Planning, said in a press release. “Whether it’s to the beaches of Cozumel and Montego Bay, or the dozens of other destinations we offer from Austin, we look forward to further connecting Central Texans to our global network.”Eyed as one of the fastest-growing airports in the U.S., Austin-Bergstrom's Jacqueline Yaft said the airport is happy to announce the new routes as customers continue to take to the skies at record pace.
“As we see Central Texas travelers returning to the skies, the announcement of new service to two fantastic leisure destinations is perfectly timed for those starting to think about their summer travel plans,” Yaft said. “Today’s news shows the continued strength of the Austin market, and we welcome American’s decision to bring even more air service options to AUS.”
Starting June 11, American will offer a 2.5-hour outbound flight from Austin to Cozumel at 9:20 a.m. on Saturdays, with the return flight arriving back in Austin at 3:20 p.m. on the same day. The airline's Montego Bay flight will also depart on Saturdays, leaving at 8 a.m. before coming back at 3:53 p.m.
Tickets for the new routes will go up for sale on Monday, Jan. 24 at aa.com.
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The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus is urging Gov. Greg Abbott to call an emergency special legislative session to consider a variety of gun restrictions and safety measures in the wake of a mass school shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children and two adults dead this week.
In a letter released Saturday morning, all 13 Senate Democrats demanded lawmakers pass legislation that raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 years old. The Uvalde gunman was 18 and had purchased two AR-style rifles which he used in the attack.
The caucus is also calling for universal background checks for all firearm sales, “red flag” laws that allow a judge to temporarily remove firearms from people who are considered an imminent threat to themselves or others, a “cooling off period” for the purchase of a firearm and regulations on high capacity magazines for citizens.
“Texas has suffered more mass shootings over the past decade than any other state. In Sutherland Springs, 26 people died. At Santa Fe High School outside Houston, 10 people died. In El Paso, 23 people died at a Walmart. Seven people died in Midland-Odessa,” the letter reads. “After each of these mass killings, you have held press conferences and roundtables promising things would change. After the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, those broken promises have never rung more hollow. The time to take real action is now.”
Such laws are unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has a track record of favoring legislation that loosens gun restrictions. Only the governor has the power to call lawmakers back into a special session for emergency work.
Asked about a special session at a Friday press conference in Uvalde, Abbott said “all options are on the table” adding that he believed laws would ultimately be passed to address this week’s horrors. However, he suggested laws would be more tailored toward addressing mental health, rather than gun control.
“You can expect robust discussion and my hope is laws are passed, that I will sign, addressing health care in this state,” he said, “That status quo is unacceptable. This crime is unacceptable. We’re not going to be here and do nothing about it.”
He resisted the idea of increasing the age to purchase a firearm, saying that since Texas became a state, 18-year-olds have been able to buy a gun.
He also dismissed universal background checks saying existing background check policies did not prevent the Santa Fe and Sutherland Springs shootings, which both happened while he has been in office.
“If everyone wants to seize upon a particular strategy and say that’s the golden strategy right there, look at what happened in the Santa Fe shooting,” he said. “A background check had no relevance because the shooter took the gun from his parents…Anyone who suggests we should focus on background checks as opposed to mental health, I suggest is mistaken.”
Since the massacre at Robb Elementary School, the governor’s comments about potential solutions have centered around increasing mental health services, rather than restricting access to firearms.
This story has been edited for length.
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Designs for stations along Project Connect’s Blue Line were presented this week, giving a detailed look at what part of the rail system extending from downtown to the airport could look like.
The planned stations that have gotten the latest focus include Waterfront, Travis Heights and Lakeshore stations past Lady Bird Lake.
At the Waterfront station, the preliminary design aims to prevent visual obstructions and save on costs. This is accomplished by a transit guideway that will lower from the bridge to a level station.
Heading onto East Riverside Drive, the light rail faces a curve requiring a slow down to about 10 miles per hour.
The Travis Heights station could involve relocating a pedestrian crosswalk zone at Alameda Drive to Blunn Creek. Since light rails can't effectively operate on a steep grade, this allows the transit guideway to avoid that.
From there, the rail will extend to the Norwood Park area, and though it will reach along the right-of-way zone, the park will be able to remain open.
A view of the Blue Line by Lady Bird Lake. (Project Connect)
The line involves some coordination with the Texas Department of Transportation. That's because the department is working on an intersection that will have to be built before the phasing of the section of the Blue Line involving an I-35 crossing.
When it comes to the safety of cyclists and walkers, design ideas include a pedestrian hybrid beacon by East Bouldin Creek that would provide a protected signal to cross. And for the intersection TxDOT is carrying out, Project Connect is working with them on pedestrian access across the intersection. It could involve shared use paths along the street and crossings beneath it.
This summer, the public can expect 30% of design and cost estimates to be released. Though the project was $7.1 billion when voters approved it in November 2020, the latest estimates factoring in inflation and supply chain constraints show it could ultimately be upwards of $10 billion.
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