Vitals Urge Airport Board To Press Delta For Better Chattanooga Service

Monday, April 21, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

In a Monday afternoon Airport Authority Board meeting, Carlene Vital of Chattanoogans for Reliable Transportation said, "I just want to take a moment to ask you for your voice as a board. I know that you're working with Delta but I feel like there's more that you can do."

The Board has been in talks with Delta for several months now because of Delta's increasingly unreliable service to the Chattanooga Airport. According to Bureau of Transportation statistics, between January and February, Delta flights out of Chattanooga only left on time 67.

92 percent of the time. Out of all of the flights leaving, 15.72 percent were delayed by the air carrier, while less than two percent were delayed because of weather.

Ms. Vital and her husband, Greg Vital, told the Board that many people are "still choosing, because they don't have confidence in Chattanooga, to fly out of Knoxville, Nashville or Atlanta." Gathering signatures from people across Chattanooga, they put together a petition for "reliable and predictable service."

Mr. Vital said, "This is not about the airport here, it's about our carriers and how they treat Chattanooga."

He said the airport was the first experience of Chattanooga many people had who were considering bringing their businesses here, and, often, Delta had cancelled their flights. He said many of those people were forced into taking last minute cab rides into Atlanta.

Ms. Vital said, "We see this as a community problem."

President and CEO of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Terry Hart said, "I cant fix Delta's problems for them but I will go back and relay the memo to them."

He said, "I understand the frustration of Delta. I'm committed and I will go back after that."

One board member pointed out, "The public doesn't know how hard management and this Board has worked with Delta. There have been many meetings with zero results." Others said at times it was difficult to contact officials at Delta.

Another board member said, "I think that our federal elected officials should be aware of our sentiments."

During the same meeting, President Hart also discussed several recent upgrades with the Board, including a CARTA bus stop.

He said, "We've reached out to them and I'm very pleased to say that bus stop has been installed on Airport Road." It will be functional by the end of May.

He also said the airport had plans to install a charging station for electric cars in collaboration with Tesla. He said this would attract people who were driving through to stop and see the airport and its restaurant while they charged their car.

He said, "Their plan is to install six of their chargers in the parking lot."

The Airport Authority also passed several resolutions, including one to upgrade old concrete pavement. Currently, the older pavement has many cracks filled in by asphalt. However, in the summer, it is not recommended for aircraft to land on asphalt because of the heat.

President Hart said, "This will allow all of the aircraft to actually park and have their landing gear on concrete and not on asphalt."

The project will take approximately 180 days to complete. Only one gate will be renovated at once to keep from disrupting air travel.

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