Early Tuesday at San Antonio International Airport, there was a Whataburger love party as authorities announced intentions to add the San Antonio burger business to the Terminal A food roster.
Whataburger is planned to open next spring in the former Chick-fil-A location. Chick-fil-A and the drama that erupted in March 2019 when a split Municipal Council prevented the chicken sandwich business from opening a restaurant at the airport were avoided by city officials and Whataburger executives as they made the announcement.
Members of the council objected to Chick-fil-selection A’s since the company’s charitable foundation and its founder, the late Truett Cathy, have donated to organizations opposed to LGBTQ rights in the past. Whataburger CEO Ed Nelson said that “This is a big day. After 71 years, we finally have a Whataburger at our hometown airport.”
Nelson paid tribute to Whataburger’s 51,000 employees and the Dotson family, who launched the company in 1950. Whataburger has locations at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas Love Field, and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Because of construction, the Whataburger in Terminal A will not open until 2022. The company is also concluding a lease arrangement with the airport’s concessionaire, Paradies Lagardere Travel Retail. The restaurant will occupy the location that was previously occupied by fast-food brand Raising Cane’s, which lost its lease after Paradies Lagardere Travel Retail was awarded the airport concession contract.
Nirenberg, who was not present for Tuesday’s announcement, has pushed for Whataburger to take over as Chick-fil-replacement A’s following the 2019 council vote. At the time, the burger brand revealed that it was in talks with Paradies Lagardere for the location. However, the corporation then dropped out of the talks due to a state court case filed by religious-freedom activists against the city of San Antonio and Paradies Lagardere, which was later dismissed.
San Antonio was obliged to award Chick-Fil-A its airport site back in September after the FAA agreed to withdraw its inquiry into the City Council’s decision. San Antonio spent $290,000 on legal fees to defend itself in the investigation, which could have cost the airport millions of dollars in federal funds.
Chick-Fil-A denied the city’s offer, claiming that patrons could visit one of its more than 30 outlets in the San Antonio area. Travelers have expressed in surveys for San Antonio International that they desire great food offerings, “especially burgers,” according to city Aviation Director Jesus Saenz Jr. at Tuesday’s ceremony.