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KUT News Staff
Pushing for Nonstop Flights to Europe
After his State of the City address Tuesday, Mayor Lee Leffingwell pointed to one thing he thinks would help take Austin’s economic growth to the next level: Nonstop flights to Europe.
One of the people trying to make that happen is local lawyer Pete Winstead. He says Austin is the largest city in the U.S. without direct flights to Europe.
“If you have to fly and change planes and go to DFW and go through a thunderstorm and/or miss your flight because you got delayed out of Austin, time is money for corporate executives,” Winstead said. “Nonstop air service, even if it leaves Austin 30 minutes late, is not a big problem.”
Cities such as Pittsburgh have secured government subsidies for airlines to run direct flights to Europe. Winstead says Austin is taking a different approach, one used in San Diego with Japan Airlines. He’s trying to broker a deal between large local companies with big travel budgets and an airline carrier. The company would agree to buy plane tickets from the carrier, and the carrier would fly directly from Austin to Europe.
Winstead says British Airways has so far been the most receptive. But Mike Boyd with the aviation consulting firm Boyd Group International is skeptical.
“To get nonstop service to any one spot in Europe is going to very difficult, because it’s going to be a European carrier,” Boyd said. “And it’s going to have to be a carrier that has a very large hub. And you’re probably going to have to pony up a lot of money to get them interested. But if they know they can make a profit on it, they’ll do it.”
Winsted says the negotiations hit a few snags, not least of which was the recent grounding of Boeing’s Dreamliner 787 because of electrical problems. But he is confident that we could start hearing about nonstop flights from Austin to at least one European city by the end of the year.