A crowd of travelers and workers stood pressed against the terminal windows at the San Antonio airport Friday evening, waiting for a moment that was years in the making.

As the tan-banded aircraft approached the gate just after 6:30 p.m., yellow-vested officials on the tarmac applauded and snapped photos. A pilot slid open the cockpit window and unfurled a Texas state flag.

San Antonio’s first nonstop air service to Europe had arrived.

“The stripes are here in San Antonio, baby!”’ said Mikko Turtiainen, Condor Airlines’ director of sales for the Americas.

The fanfare in the terminal matched the level of excitement when in September the German airliner announced that it planned to offer nonstop flights to and from Frankfurt (FRA) and the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) 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, said to cheers from a crowd gathered next to Whataburger and La Gloria restaurants.

Germany’s fifth-largest city is an especially desirable destination as it connects travelers to many other places in the world, Saenz added. “You leave SAT, you land in Frankfurt, you can connect to the entire globe.”

Jesus Saenz (center), director of airports for the City of San Antonio, speaks with City Manager Erik Walsh (left) and Mayor Ron Nirenberg on the tarmac after the first nonstop flight from Germany arrived in San Antonio. Credit: Brenda Bazán / ISF FORUM

For the travelers who had bought tickets on the inaugural flight, the celebration — complete with German-style pretzels and a Beethoven Damenchor and Männerchor performance — was serendipitous to their vacation travel plans.

Gabby Herrera and Jerald Brown were planning a Mediterranean cruise when Herrera stumbled upon the direct flight to Frankfurt while online.

The couple booked the Frankfurt flight unaware it was a first for SAT, their plans including a connection to Barcelona where they could board a cruise ship.

Typically, “we go from here to Houston or here to Dallas, and then it'll take us internationally,” Herrera said. “So this is really cool to just go straight there. Super exciting.”

Gabby Herrera and Jerald Brown wait to board Condor Airlines' first flight from San Antonio to Frankfurt, Germany. Credit: Brenda Bazán / ISF FORUM

Frequent travelers Jim and Debbi Elza of Bulverde, who also got tickets to Frankfurt after planning a cruise from Athens, watched together as the plane arrived. “There she is,” Debbi said. “What a pretty plane. This is so exciting.”

For the other San Antonio families, the flight was taking them home. Jacquelynn Horner, traveling with her husband and adult son, said she was born in Frankfurt but had not been back since she was a baby.

But Germany-native Christiane Morano, who travels back there every few years, was looking forward to the flight, this time nonstop — and a side trip to Italy with husband Tony Morano and daughter Jessica.

For local officials, the Frankfurt flight opens the door to economically fruitful leisure travel and increased tourism, but also new business opportunities.

Mikko Turtiainen, Condor Airlines’ director of sales for the Americas, speaks Friday at SAT after the Frankfurt flight arrived. Credit: Brenda Bazán / ISF FORUM

“It is impossible to overstate the historic nature of today and the landing of this plane,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “And for those of you who were there to see it land, you knew the moment that it hit the ground that something very special was happening in the history and the story going forward of our city.”

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

Just days before, Congress passed a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration to add five new direct flight slots out of Reagan National Airport (DCA). A partnership with American Airlines announced by airport officials is fueling hope that San Antonio will get one of those long-coveted slots.

Frankfurt was considered one of the largest untapped destinations for San Antonio’s leisure market. “This moment is long overdue for our culturally vibrant and distinctive cities,” said Mark Anderson, president and CEO of Visit SA.

It’s also celebrated by the regional economic development nonprofit, Greater:SATX, improving the city’s competitive advantage in attracting new business.

There are currently three nonstop-to-Europe flights from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport with destinations to Amsterdam (via KLM), London (British Airways) and Frankfurt (Lufthansa).

“Air connectivity is critical for the work that we do to attract new corporate citizens into San Antonio but also to support the retention and expansion of existing businesses,” said Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of Greater:SATX. “Greater air connectivity means greater jobs.”

Business class seating is available on the 10-hour Frankfurt flights, which will depart Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. Credit: Brenda Bazán / ISF FORUM
Condor Airlines' Airbus A330neo aircraft taxis toward its gate at San Antonio International Airport. Credit: Brenda Bazán / ISF FORUM

The nonstop service to Flughafen Frankfurt Main, Germany's main international airport, operates three days a week through Sept. 6, and again between May and September in 2025.

The 10-hour and 20-minute flight on Condor’s new fleet of Airbus A330neo aircraft departs in the evening on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The event itself appeared to bring even more interest in the Condor flight, with attendees eagerly talking with one another about how soon they could book it themselves.

Männerchor member Clay Thompson said Friday that when he told his wife about the event, and the direct flight to Frankfurt, she asked him, “So when are we going?”

A traveler at the gate waits to board the first flight to Frankfurt, San Antonio's first nonstop service to Europe. Credit: Brenda Bazán / ISF FORUM

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the ISF FORUM since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...