The new Chase Sapphire Terrace is now open at Austin Airport. This is the first bank facility in a US airport, although it is not officially a Sapphire Lounge. This is because it is unique, not a full-fledged hall, but mostly an open space. It is also open to Sapphire Reserve cardholders but is not part of the Priority Pass.
The space has really changed compared to what it was just a week ago when I looked in there. You’ll find it upstairs near Gates 1 and 2 on the East side of the Austin Airport Main Terminal, next to the Delta Sky Club. You can take the lift or stairs to the reception area which leads to a small indoor space and a larger outdoor terrace.
Access rules and clock
Chase Sapphire Reserve and JP Morgan Reserve cardholders are entitled to access for themselves and two guests no later than three hours before the departure time indicated on their boarding pass. Upon arrival, access is not possible.
Airport Dimensions (whose parent company also owns Priority Pass) has become a partner in this space, as has Chase’s Sapphire Lounges, but unlike those lounges, Sapphire Terrace is closed to Priority Pass customers.
The premises are open from 10:00 to 20:00. I was told that the reason for the late opening was that the east side of the airport, where the terrace is located, is not very busy in the mornings (for example, international flights departing from the nearby gates are grouped in the evenings, and the neighboring Sky Club is also not busy in the mornings).
However, the spokesperson suggested that the clock could be adjusted if they found that the terrace was attracting passengers from the center and west side of the terminal.
I’m curious to see in practice how well the 3 hours rule and 2 guests policy will be enforced, at least in extreme cases. Officially, children under two years of age do not count towards the number of guests. And a family of six can be accommodated with a primary cardholder getting an authorized user card for their spouse or partner, to be sure.
Snacks and drinks
The lounge is run by Sodexho and serves soft drinks, as well as beer and wine, as well as packaged food (ideal for takeaway) from two vending machines.
The vending machines don’t charge and it’s “two items per order”, but you can place as many orders from the vending machines as you wish. No doubt some of them will service their aircraft from Sapphire Terrace.
Food options include salads, wraps, noodles, fruits, muesli, and more.
The sapphire terrace is mostly outdoors. The inside has some modest seating, a bar and food outlets, and is just 1,000 square feet.
The open area is 4000 square feet. Weather permitting, the space as a whole will be able to easily accommodate guests, both because it’s limited to Sapphire Reserve (and JP Morgan Reserve) cardholders and because it’s designed for short stays.
However, the space has no heaters or gentlemen and will not be inviting during the winter months or during the oppressive summer heat.
Overall, though, as an Austin resident, I find most of the year fantastic for al fresco dining, and while opinions differ, I expect to find Sapphire Terrace far more inviting than it really is.
Plenty of outdoor seating available, a vast improvement from when the space was an underused public terrace (much people knew this, which is best kept secret at the airport). Here you will also find shuffleboard and cornhole.
There is also a toilet accessible from the outdoor terrace. This is a large private room and free women’s items and diapers are available at the front desk.
Take your baggage tag
Sapphire Terrace currently offers the Chase Sapphire baggage tag to visitors. There should be more gifts this week.
The Future of Airport Chases
I expect the Sapphire Terrace, although not permanent, to continue for a few more years. Over time, we will probably see a full-fledged Sapphire Lounge here.
There is currently an American Airlines, United, and Delta lounge, but no independent lounges. This will almost certainly change.
American announced that it was building a new club in a different space rather than expanding an existing one. However, 16 months have passed, and there is no progress. I expect they will not be built in the current upstairs offices they originally announced. Instead, I’m willing to bet they’re waiting for the West Gate Expansion project, which will add exits and seating space at the end of the terminal, which is closer to where American actually operates. (This project will ultimately not add a clean gate to the airport, as once completed, Austin will lose the gate to create a passageway to the planned midfield lobby.)
When an American leaves his current club, he will leave the current club space. and the one where the Americans announced they would build a new (or if I’m wrong, the club space in the West Gate expansion) available for the new Lounges.
Since Chase is already at the airport, I should expect one of the two open spaces to become the Chase Sapphire Lounge and the other space to become the American Express Centurion Studio (Escape) or Capital One Lounge, with dark horse rivals Plaza Premium. Group and others may be interested in competing for the spot. Prior to the pandemic, the airport had actually recommended Escape as the winner of the Lounge Request for Proposal, but this was due to contesting the Airport Dimensions (The Club) award.