I’d say Austin is having a moment, but that implies a brief period of time. The reality is that Austin has been experiencing incredible growth, buzz and influx for decades now. With new transatlantic interest, things are ready to reach new heights.
A swell of transatlantic demand is bringing new flavor to the city known for blues and barbecue, and among the new transatlantic visitors, like Lufthansa, KLM and British Airways, Virgin is arguably making the largest impression.
Virgin recently announced big moves not only to serve Austin, but to upgrade the flight to daily from later this year, when other airlines plan to scale back to just a few weekly services. There’s certainly benefit in being able to jet in, and out, on any given day.
Austin has experienced its fair share of tech, music and film invasions over the last decade, but a new wave of British tourists and businesses jetting into the area bring newfound excitement and exploration to this Texan haven.
And, about 300 new people per day to sell cowboy hats to. Richard Branson, at least on this trip, being one of them!
Austin’s Transatlantic Growth
Austin is not New York, nor is it Los Angeles.
Residents would probably tell you that’s a good thing. It’s the little city “that could”, and there’s no place more evident of that, than upon arrival off an international flight into Austin Bergstrom Airport.
The airport wasn’t made for multiple 747’s, 787’s, A350’s and other big jets flying in simultaneously, chock full of international passengers, yet here we are.
There’s a lone baggage claim for these flights, for now. It’s a remarkable symbol of how a city that perhaps never meant to become the incredible metropolis that it is, became exactly that.
On any given day, you’ll find many big birds on the tarmac, unloading hundreds of European and British visitors, alongside tonnes of cargo. Over time, there’s no doubt Asian carriers will follow, and most likely, the Middle East too.
With each of those visitors often comes a hotel room, a dinner reservation and spend in the city. Long gone are the days of connecting in New York, Dallas, or Los Angeles to reach this burgeoning commerce center, and Austin can capitalize on convenience. It’s a fun place to do business, and stay a few extra days.
By going daily, Virgin Atlantic’s move is arguably the boldest transatlantic move yet. The airline says it’s already above 75% full on loads to Austin, despite only launching the route weeks ago. I’m told that’s a record, or damn near close.
Currently, the Virgin route is operated by a Boeing 787-9, but could be upgraded to a larger aircraft if success continues. British Airways flies the Airbus A350, Lufthansa is flying an Airbus A330 and KLM is also operating a 787 Dreamliner.
So, What Makes Austin So Great?
If you’re coming for business, Austin is a really fun place to do business.
It’s accepting, open, laid back and cultured in ways *some* other Texas cities say they are, but aren’t always. A good reason for that is the slogan “keep Austin weird”, which locals will recite by heart.
Offices tend to be central and walkable, and if they’re not, hipster level cocktail bars and coffee establishments still seem to pop up around places where there’s money. East Austin, South Austin, it’s all expanding and upcoming. Funny how that works.
If you’re coming to Austin for leisure, the world is your oyster. In fact, if you’ve come for work, you almost undoubtedly have a deep desire to return without responsibility. The late nights and breakfast tacos to wash it all away just work so well together.
Just keep a training plan with you, because it’s easy to over indulge here. Fortunately, an early morning jog along the river reveals spin classes, yoga and everything else one could need.
There are cowboy ranches to practice lassoing, horse whispering and general beer and mezcal drinking skills. For many, that’s probably enough of a draw in itself. There’s also truly world class barbecue, so good in fact that the last credible former US President famously queued for hours with the general public to get a slice of that brisket.
Flea and vintage markets in Austin can take on any city anywhere, and if you want a custom cowboy hat, and have $500 to part ways with, you can totally get one of those. Fair warning, as I sadly found out, they just don’t feel the same back home.
Work hard, play hard, seems to be the flow here. That’s certainly a good match for Virgin Atlantic, and the other international airlines bringing new visitors to this ever wonderful, ever weird and always delicious city.
GSTP traveled to Austin as a guest of Virgin Atlantic.