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Condor Launches Historic Transatlantic Route from Frankfurt to San Antonio

The German carrier has launched flights to San Antonio, marking its 18th North American gateway, with a brand-new Airbus A330neo

by Enrique Perrella

May 19, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of San Antonio International Airport

A group of travelers and airport staff gathered by the terminal windows at San Antonio International Airport (SAT) on Friday evening, eagerly anticipating a long-awaited moment. At around 6:30 p.m., a newly delivered Airbus A330neo, painted in the striking Condor Airlines striped livery, arrived at the gate, marking a momentous occasion for the airport and the German carrier.

The pilots of the brand-new Airbus jet opened the cockpit window and proudly displayed a Texas state flag, announcing the introduction of San Antonio’s first nonstop air service to Europe.

“The stripes are here in San Antonio, baby!” exclaimed Mikko Turtiainen, Condor’s director of sales for the Americas, capturing the moment’s excitement.

A Long-Awaited Celebration

The fanfare in the terminal echoed the enthusiasm that had been building since the previous September, when the German leisure carrier announced its plans to offer nonstop flights between its base in Frankfurt (FRA) and San Antonio starting May 17. Now that the day had come, it was time to celebrate.

“Our first-ever, historic, transatlantic flight has just landed and is being prepared for takeoff,” Jesus Saenz, director of airports for the City of San Antonio, announced to cheers from a crowd close to the inaugural Gate A6.

Photo: Courtesy of San Antonio International Airport

Saenz added that Germany’s fifth-largest city is an especially desirable destination, connecting travelers to numerous global locations. “You leave SAT, you land in Frankfurt, you can connect to the entire globe,” he said.

The celebration for travelers on the inaugural flight included German-style pretzels and performances by the Beethoven Damenchor and Männerchor, making it a delightful start to their vacation plans. Several passengers had booked early summer vacations with cruise operators in Europe without knowing about the inaugural celebration. To their surprise, their holidays began with a festive appeal, underscoring the significance of the occasion.

Photo: Courtesy of Enrique Perrella

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg hailed the flight as a historic milestone for the city, made possible through incentives worth $1.3 million provided to Condor over two years, including $374,000 in waived fees and a $900,000 marketing grant to promote San Antonio to European travelers.

“It is impossible to overstate the historic nature of today,” Nirenberg said during the inaugural ceremony. “The landing of this plane—the first time we’ve had a commercial plane land from overseas into our city—is really phenomenal.”

“And for those of you who were there to see it land, you knew the moment it hit the ground that something very special was happening in the history and the story going forward in our city,” Nirenberg said.

Economic and Strategic Impacts

The seasonal route, operating on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays until September 6, will be served by Condor’s new Airbus A330-900neo widebody jets. The aircraft will have 310 seats in a three-cabin configuration, with 30 seats in business class, 64 in premium economy, and 216 in economy class.

The airline’s sales boss in North America told Business Traveler that San Antonio was carefully chosen due to its strong German heritage, with a significant number of second and third-generation Germans living in the area. The region’s connection to German culture, particularly in areas such as Fredericksburg, Boerne, and New Braunfels, was a key factor in the selection of San Antonio.

Photo: Courtesy of Condor

Additionally, the area’s thriving automotive industry aligns well with Germany’s reputation, making it beneficial for corporate travel. The presence of major military bases near Frankfurt and San Antonio’s reputation as Military City USA further supported the decision to establish this route.

San Antonio’s growing status as a tech hub, with companies like Amazon, Apple, Oracle, and Tesla having a presence in Texas, also factored into the decision. The nonstop service between San Antonio and Frankfurt addresses a pent-up demand and has the potential to operate year-round.

A report commissioned by Greater: SATX and Visit San Antonio revealed that 31 passengers a day travel through SAT en route to or from Frankfurt, amounting to 22,630 passengers annually. The report also highlighted the airport’s ongoing 20-year, $2.5 billion expansion, which includes the construction of a third terminal by 2028, the revamping of Terminal A, and the extension of runways for long-haul flights.

Photo: Courtesy of San Antonio International Airport

Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of Greater: SATX, emphasized during the inaugural ceremony the critical role of air connectivity in attracting new corporate citizens to San Antonio and supporting the retention and expansion of existing businesses during the inaugural ceremony. “Greater air connectivity means greater jobs,” she said.

The city’s mayor also noted that the new air service would have an estimated economic impact of $34 million this summer and the next. “This isn’t the last big news we’re going to share about SAT, but as the story and the book are written on this airport, this perhaps is the biggest we’ve ever had,” he said.

Condor’s Versatile Product

Condor is expanding into the U.S. market with a new product offering, intensifying competition with Lufthansa, its former owner. The inaugural flight, which had 310 seats, was well-received, with about 200 outbound and 150 inbound passengers, despite the usual initial challenges.

Flights to Frankfurt can take up to 10 hours, while the return leg takes 11 hours and 30 minutes.

According to Turtiainen, the airline’s fares on the new San Antonio route “are typically mid to mid-low, depending on booking time.”

Photo: Business Class, Airbus A330neo. Courtesy of Condor

“Unlike legacy airlines that increase prices as the departure date approaches, our prices remain more stable. For San Antonio to Frankfurt, we currently offer round-trip economy fares in the $700-$800 range and business class under $3,000, including taxes and surcharges. These competitive prices help us attract more customers,” he told Business Traveler.

This new service will boost local business, particularly manufacturing and cybersecurity, by facilitating German investment.

“Our business class offers a one-to-one seating configuration with all the amenities expected. Premium economy and economy also have upgraded offerings,” explains Turtiainen.

Photo: Business Class, Airbus A330neo. Courtesy of Condor

Condor has strong partnerships with Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, and WestJet in North America. “Alaska is a key partner, and we also have deep cooperation with JetBlue and WestJet in Canada,” Turtiainen says.

“We operate 18 routes during the summer season and four year-round. Our partnership with Alaska includes codeshare agreements for about 70 destinations, ensuring seamless connectivity for passengers.”

Additionally, Condor participates in Alaska’s Mileage Plan program, allowing its passengers to earn and redeem points on the Seattle-based airline’s flights.

Photo: Premium Economy cabin. Courtesy of Condor Airlines

Condor’s network in North America now includes 18 destinations, with 13 in the U.S. and five in Canada, all offering nonstop flights to Frankfurt. Four of these routes—Toronto, New York, Miami, and Seattle—are operated year-round.

Looking ahead, Condor plans to launch flights to Los Cabos in Mexico. “We’re working to increase awareness of Los Cabos as a holiday destination in Europe and are promoting San Antonio as a great destination. Our reciprocal marketing efforts aim to build awareness and demand for these destinations,” Turtiainen said.

A Bright Future for San Antonio

The airport in central Texas is moving forward with its 20-year expansion plan to increase its capacity for long-haul flights to Asia and South America following the successful inaugural flight from San Antonio to Frankfurt.

The new nonstop service to Frankfurt is a significant development, providing enhanced connectivity and supporting the city’s growth as a global business hub.

In July, Mayor Nirenberg will take his first flight on Condor to lead a delegation to Darmstadt, Germany, one of San Antonio’s sister cities.

This new route symbolizes San Antonio’s aspirations and potential as a major player on the international stage. The city is poised to become even more vibrant and globally connected with strategic investments and continued support.