San Antonio secures first-ever nonstop flights to Europe

The flights to Frankfurt, Germany, are seasonal only, and they didn't come cheap to the city.

click to enlarge Airport Director Jesus Saenz shakes hands with Mikko Turtiainen, U.S. sales director for Condor Airlines, at Thursday's press event. - Brandon Rodriguez
Brandon Rodriguez
Airport Director Jesus Saenz shakes hands with Mikko Turtiainen, U.S. sales director for Condor Airlines, at Thursday's press event.
San Antonio International Airport will begin offering nonstop flights to Europe for the first time, in what local officials are touting as a means to boost the local hospitality industry while expanding cross-Atlantic business ties.

German leisure carrier Condor will begin flying directly between San Antonio and the German business center of Frankfurt next summer. The seasonal service will run May 17 through September 6, according to airline officials.

"San Antonio, it is finally happening [in] May of 2024,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during a Thursday media event unveiling the deal. "Get ready to fly to Europe."

Although the city issued news releases trumpeting the announcement as "history making," the connection will start small, only running seasonally and three days a week. What's more, the route is only confirmed for two years, Condor Airlines U.S. Sales Director Mikko Turtiainen told the Current.

"Its a huge investment for an airline to start up a new route," Turtiainen said. "And we don't look at this at one or two years, we look at this as a long-term investment."

What's more, city officials agreed to pony up $1.3 million in incentives to Condor to secure the route, the Express-News reports. That includes waiving $374,000 in landing and terminal fees and plus giving out a $900,000 marketing grant to help the airline promote the Alamo City in Europe.

While securing San Antonio's first cross-Atlantic direct flight is an achievement, the next big hurdle is filling seats and ensuring the airline can financially justify keeping the route going.

San Antonio and other cities have historically offered incentives to airlines to attract new flights, including minimum revenue guarantees, according to experts. A minimum revenue guarantee ensures that a new route won't be a money loser. Should an airline not sell enough tickets, the minimum revenue guarantee kicks in and the city helps with subsidies.

"The hope is that there won't be any incentives," Visit San Antonio CEO Marc Anderson told the Current. "We are hoping these flights will be full and we won't have to make any monetary incentive."

Visit San Antonio and economic development group greater: SATX jointly created a fund last year to help subsidize airlines willing to offer nonstop service at San Antonio International, according to the Express-News. That account contained $2 million as of August, the daily reports.

Greater:SATX CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera also said she hopes there's no need to dip into the funding. 

"At the end of the day, if the route performs, we don't pay anything," Saucedo-Herrera said. 

The flights between San Antonio and Frankfurt will take more than 10 hours and run on Airbus A330-900neo aircraft, Condor officials said. The Airbus A330-900neo has 310 seats.

Tickets for the nonstop flights are currently available for sale.

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