a group of people standing in front of an airplane
"Y'all come back now"

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!

a group of people standing in front of an airplane

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.

a bridge over water with trees and buildings

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.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Austin is a great place, as long as it’s not summer. Like the rest of Texas, it gets very hot @ 100F+. Avoid it from mid-June – mid Sept. That said, I know Brits often go to Dubai in summer. So…

  2. I’m a native Texan and been living and working in Austin for years and have seen this city go through an insane transformation especially in the last ten years. It used to be no one came to Austin except those who worked in state government or you were into the music scene. Now Austin is trying to be everything to everyone which for the most part is okay. Although, lately the cracks have been showing with the exponential growth (insane housing prices, airport at max capacity, traffic even worse than before god help you if you want to be on I-35 at 4PM, etc).

    I think outsiders have this perception that Austin is only one thing. It’s either the place you go for South by Southwest, party city, music scene, or tech hub. But really it has seen so much growth that it is becoming all those things. So it’s place for anyone and accepts everyone. Sure it’s a liberal hub in a red state in the US but the beauty of it is that you can be whoever you want to be here.

    It is hot as hell right now but hey it’s Texas and we have air conditioning everywhere and Barton Springs is always a fun place to cool down. So, come visit but please when you take your selfie on Congress Ave bridge over the river don’t stand in the middle of the road or in the bike lane. Some of us do live and work here and I really don’t want to mow down a tourist haha.

    Also, I’m excited as an Austinite to have non-stop service to LHR now without having to connect to DFW or IAH.

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