San Antonio finally on ‘world stage’ with 1st route to Europe

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San Antonio officials are celebrating what they say is one of the most important moments in the city’s aviation history.

While German carrier Condor may not be a household name in the United States, its arrival at San Antonio International Airport (SAT) is being heralded as an air-service triumph.

That’s because Condor will give the city its first regularly scheduled nonstop service to Europe, something that had long been at the top of the wish list for local leaders.

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“San Antonio is intercontinental,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg was quoted as saying by the San Antonio Express-News during a press event to announce the flights. “We have arrived on the world stage.”

Condor’s San Antonio flights will begin May 17, 2024, when the airline will launch three weekly nonstop flights to its hub at Frankfurt Airport (FRA). The service will be seasonal, running through Sept. 6. Onward connections will be available to the airline’s destinations in Europe and the Middle East. Tickets are on sale now, with Condor’s website showing economy fares varying widely — ranging from about $461 one-way to more than $1,100 one-way, depending on the date of travel.

Condor will fly the 5,376-mile route with its new 310-seat Airbus A330-900neo wide-body jets. The planes include 30 seats in Condor’s revamped and well-reviewed business-class cabin and 64 extra-legroom seats. The remaining 216 seats are in standard economy.

Condor — which made headlines last year with a bold new striped paint scheme for its planes — is not a member of any of the big three frequent flyer groups. However, the carrier does have a partnership with Alaska Airlines that allows customers flying Condor to earn Alaska Airlines miles or vice versa. Condor has doubled down on growth in North America since the pandemic, with San Antonio becoming its 12th destination in the U.S.

That’s an upgrade: Condor, a German budget airline, unveils new Airbus A330 cabins that are nicer than Lufthansa’s 

Currently, San Antonio’s only international flights are to Mexico, where a handful of airlines fly to destinations such as Cancun, Guadalajara and Mexico City.

But securing transatlantic service had become top priority for San Antonio in recent years, and airport officials could only watch as nearby Austin — the booming Texas capital city only 80 miles from San Antonio — landed new European service on British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic during the past decade.

To help land such a route, local business leaders have cobbled more than $2 million to help secure an international service — with Frankfurt and London identified as the top targets, according to the Express-News.

Seating makeover: Inside Condor’s new premium economy, coach cabins

Such funds can be used any number of ways, including helping defray a carrier’s marketing costs in promoting its new service or waiving landing fees. Another popular option is to use a fund as a “revenue guarantee.” These essentially guarantee a set amount of total revenue on the route, with the funds being used to offset any losses below that amount.

It appears that some of that fund will be made available to Condor, with the Express-News saying in its coverage of the announcement that the city will offer the airline a total of $1.3 million in incentives — including about $900,000 in marketing funds to promote the new route and $374,000 in waived landing and terminal fees.

Regardless of what drew Condor in, the new service to Frankfurt immediately becomes San Antonio’s highest-profile route — and gives the city its long-awaited first service to Europe.

Now, local officials will have to hope the flights are successful as the failure of the route would likely hurt San Antonio’s chances of attracting more transatlantic routes.

Even with the short, seasonal duration of the flights, city officials struck an optimistic tone.

“These new flights obviously will help us open up some pathways to particular industries that are strong on both sides, including advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity,” Nirenberg, the San Antonio mayor, said to the Express-News.

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