Public patio at Austin's airport turned into private terrace for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has repurposed a public patio on the east side of the Barbara Jordan Terminal into a private space for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders only. The two-year deal with Chase will bring the airport $3.8 million.
The 4,000 square-foot terrace has been accessible to the public since it opened during the airport’s nine-gate expansion in 2019. On Monday, the revitalized space opened as the Sapphire Terrace, featuring indoor and outdoor seating, complimentary drinks and grab-and-go food.
“We realized that it was getting very low utilization by the public even though we call it a public patio,” Mookie Patel, ABIA chief of business and finance, said.
Patel said the airport began looking for additional revenue streams during the pandemic and was approached by the company Airport Dimension and its partner JPMorgan Chase about repurposing the space for a cardholder lounge. He said the $3.8 million deal, a pilot program that will last for two years, will help the airport pay off its mounting mortgage.
“We're looking at non-airline revenue to help balance the future funding in the financing of the airport,” Patel said. “Every year we have about a $50 million mortgage payment to pay. That mortgage payment grows to almost $80 million in the next couple years.”
Wendy Todd, a member of the city's Airport Advisory Commission, criticized closing the terrace to the public at a commission meeting March 8. Todd said the space was being underutilized because of a lack of advertising, promotion and signs.
“The Parks Department could use extra revenue, but they're not having a credit card lounge for two years that would prevent public use of a public space,” Todd said.
Elizabeth Ferrer, a spokesperson for the airport, said the Sapphire Terrace will help the airport leverage its existing space during record-breaking travel. Over 1.5 million passengers flew out of ABIA in January, about 37% more than the previous year.
“Even though the patio has signage, is on our digital map and has been promoted on social media, we did not see high use rates," she said, "and we are hoping this pilot will allow for greater and more frequent use of the space."