Austin’s busiest airport has been even busier in the last couple of days. On Monday, the Texas capital saw a surge of travelers flying in and out of Austin-Bergstrom International, prompting the airport to issue a fuel shortage alert.
Due to its low supply of jet fuel, the airport (AUS) warned airlines to carry extra fuel or send in more through tankers, as Bloomberg reports.
The surge of travelers not only strained the jet fuel supply at AUS, but its employees and passengers, too. Bloomberg says that more than 8,000 travelers had gone through the airport even before 8 a.m. on Sunday and Monday. The airport confirmed that’s about 25 percent higher than normal.
As you’d imagine, the arrivals gate looked like a scene straight of a nightmare:
Airport security lines stretched out of the terminal onto sidewalks, and many people missed flights as the surge of travelers crushed any late-comer’s hope of running through the TSA while anxiously apologizing to fellow fliers.
The jet fuel shortage traces mostly to the energy crunch the world is facing as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The price of jet fuel already increased by 50 percent this year, per CNBC. And to top it off, a surge in travel demand has recently strained airlines. AUS blames Texas Relays and NASCAR.
But another likely cause of the jet fuel shortage could be that AUS hasn’t gone back to prepare for travel surges by increasing its fuel capacity, which lags behind other airports with similar passenger volumes. From Bloomberg:
The airport’s two fuel-storage tanks haven’t been expanded or augmented since it opened in 1999, [Sam] Haynes said. As a result, the Austin facility typically holds one to two days of supply, less than half the five-to-seven days of fuel stockpiled by most airports of similar size, she said.
“The on-hand supply just isn’t enough to keep up with demand,” she said. “This is all a result of the tremendous growth we’ve seen” in the Austin area.
At AUS, the biggest carrier by passenger load is reportedly Southwest Airlines. The Dallas-based airline tells Bloomberg that it’s aware of the shortage, and will work around it by tankering fuel on inbound flights.
The practice of tankering fuel has drawn criticism overseas because it increases emissions by weighing down aircraft, thereby burning more fuel. But instead of tankering and polluting Austin more, maybe it’s time AUS got bigger fuel tanks.