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Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Celebrates its 15th Anniversary

Austin is known for the live music capital of America. At times bands play at the terminal for your entertainment.
Austin is known for the live music capital of America. At times bands play at the terminal for your entertainment.
Sandy Stevens - ABIA

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (IATA code: KAUS) celebrates its 15th anniversary as an international passenger airport today. The airfield where ABIA is now, was originally opened during World War II on September 19th, 1942, almost a year after the Pearl Harbor invasion. It was called the Del Valle Army Air Base which was derived from the location, just southeast of city center. At that time, the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport was already operational on the northeast side of the city since 1930 which was then the area's established passenger airport (Penn Field also had passenger service before Mueller Airport).

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Terminal
Joe Fernandez Imaging

A day after the Pearl Harbor invasion, the Japanese attacked Clark Field in the Philippines. Captain John August Earl Bergstrom, an administrative officer for the 19th Bombardment Group, was killed in the bombing. A graduate of Texas A & M University, he was the first Austin area resident to die in the Pacific War. The Del Valle airfield was renamed to the Bergstrom Army Air Field on March 3, 1943 in his honor. Bergstrom Air Field was primarily used for troop training and transportation. During the cold war, the airfield became a Strategic Air Command (SAC) air base housing bombers and their escort aircraft. Upon the closure of Connally Air Force Base, the Twelfth Air Force, responsible for most of the operations west of the Mississippi River, established its headquarters at Bergstrom AFB in a round building known as the "doughnut" or "roundagon". The structure is still active to date as a Hilton Hotel.

The base was still fully operational until the deactivation of the 67th Reconnaissance wing in 1993 but some partial military aircraft operations continued at the Bergstrom AFB until September 1996 with the 924th USAF (Reserve) Fighter Wing. Mueller Airport was still the only passenger airport in operation at the time but due to overcrowding, growing population, and the fact that it had difficulties and lack of space to handle larger commercial airplanes, the city decided to look toward the Air Force Base location for a future airport to relieve congestion. Groundbreaking for the new airport was done on November 19, 1994 and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport officially came to life with commercial passenger service on May 23, 1999.

Today, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is a fast growing facility, surpassing the 10 million annual passenger mark for the first time ever in 2013 with 10,017,958 passengers, far exceeding the prior year total of 9,430,314 which was also a record at the time. This is up 6% from 2012. ABIA has had four years of consecutive passenger growth and this trend will likely continue. Also, on November 18th of last year, the single day passenger total record was also established at 22,759. This happened during the Formula One races in Austin at the time. British Airways also started non-stop service to London recently marking the first time that the airport has had a direct international passenger route completely across an ocean.

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