How do gates work at Austin-Bergstrom airport?

Ever wondered how gate operations work at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport?

The airport recently posted on X (formerly Twitter) explaining how it works in response to a traveler talking about waiting for gates to open up.

According to Austin-Bergstrom, each airline leases gates from the airport and exclusively manages their own gate operations and schedules. For airlines with lots of flights, this means a flight arriving even 10–15 minutes late, or early, can impact gate availability.

"We are the landlords," AUS spokesperson Elizabeth Ferrer told 7 On Your Side reporter Carissa Lehmkuhl. "The tenants can be airlines, our cargo facilities and our concessionaires, things like that, and they all rent the space."


Gates are not first-come, first-serve, so even if travelers stuck on a plane waiting for a gate can see other flights taxi into other open gates, that doesn't mean their airline has an open gate. Airlines can only use the specific gates they lease from the airport.

Gate operations, which require specific airline staffing and tech systems to operate, are also not interchangeable, says Austin-Bergstrom. For example, if a United Airlines flight is waiting for one of their gates to open, the flight can't use an open Southwest Airlines gate.

According to the AUS website, the Barbara Jordan Terminal has 34 gates, divided among 16 airlines. The South Terminal has three and services two airlines, Allegiant and Frontier.

Southwest Airlines has the most business at AUS, about 30%, so they lease the largest number of gates.


In order to address gate availability issues, Austin-Bergstrom says they are building more gates, with three opening in 2026 as part of the West Gate expansion. This will add 84,500 sq ft across the apron, concourse and mezzanine level for amenities like more restrooms and waiting areas, a quiet space and a children’s play area.

A 20-gate Concourse B is also in the pre-design phase. The second concourse would ideally connect to the Barbara Jordan Terminal through an underground tunnel and include new concessions, passenger boarding bridges, baggage handling system expansion and space for a future automated people mover in the tunnel.

Austin-Bergstrom says it is continuing to work with airlines to encourage them to set flight schedules at off-peak times.

In the meantime, what are your rights as a passenger?

For domestic flights, an airline can keep you on an arriving flight without providing an opportunity to get off for up to three hours, with some exceptions for safety. 

If you are told you can leave the plane, and you do, airlines are not required to let you back on. They are also required to provide water and a snack no later than two hours after the start of the delay. If the delay exceeds 30 minutes, they are also required to notify you on the status.

"It's all these different systems that have to work together in sync, in harmony every day, all day long. And if one thing gets a kink, it can cause a serious backup," said Ferrer.

For travelers impacted by extended delays, the US Department of Transportation has a federal program dedicated to protecting aviation consumer rights. Click here for more information.