Chattanooga Airport Has Biggest Month Yet; Work May Start Next Year On Parking Deck With 1,300 Spaces

Monday, October 15, 2018 - by Gail Perry

The Chattanooga Airport set a record in September with 44,000 enplanements, the highest ever for one month. This was an increase of nine percent over September 2017, and deplanements were in line, said Terry Hart president and CEO.

He said that more parking is needed near the terminal to keep up with the growth. The 20-year master plan includes a parking deck with around 1,300 spaces that is planned where the short-term parking area is now. Work on this needed infrastructure may start next year, he said.

To fulfill the immediate need, the board approved spending $155,925 for engineering services to build a satellite surface parking lot that is currently used for overflow parking. It will add 230-330 more spaces that will be paved, marked and lighted. It will be built across the street from the bus station and will have shuttle service that will run every six-eight minutes continuously to pick up and leave customers who use the lot. The construction cost is estimated to be $1 million. These additional parking spaces will be in place when a number of spaces are taken out of service while building the deck.

The project will go out to bid in November and approval of the bid should be at the December board meeting. Construction is expected to be started in January 2019 and be complete at the end of February. The work has been planned during the winter when boardings are down.

After the deck is built, this satellite lot may be used for economy parking so that people use it first. Mr. Hart said he has been reluctant to raise parking rates, which he said are now very competitive but in the future he expects that adjustments will be made.

Updates on other improvements that have been made at the airport were given to the board on Monday afternoon. West Star Aviation’s two new hangars on the east side of the airport have been completed, where repairs and maintenance of aircraft will be done. This represents a $20 million investment with the company expecting to soon have 100 employees. An open house will be in mid-November.

Phase I is complete of the north ramp project to replace concrete on ramps four, five and six and Phase II has started. It is anticipated that this work will be done by Christmas.

A FAA project to replace safety equipment on the runways has been completed. Testing and a flight check will take place next week.

Phase III of the solar project should begin in November and be finished around the end of the year.

The 60-year-old National Guard site has been demolished and by January 2019 will be available for aviation needs.

Tailwinds Concessions has been a successful partner with the airport since it was remodeled in 2013, said Mr. Hart. In 2014, the first year of operations, the food and retail concessions company, which specializes in small airports, had sales of $1.5 million in Chattanooga. Since then sales have steadily climbed and in 2017 was $2.5 million. Projections are that sales will be $2.7 million at the end of 2018.  The airport receives 10 percent of sales.

The increase was attributed to multiple factors including that Tailwinds is giving customers products that they want. Another big reason is because this airport has a great set up with the majority of concessions being in the post-security area which gives travelers a good place to hang out, said Jeff Switzer representing Tailwinds. Sales are measured by sales per passenger, and Chattanooga is one of the highest in sales the company has out of the 20 airports it services. In 2016 the sales per person enplaning was $4.92. In 2017 it was $5.32 and they are on track for sales to be $5.88 per enplanement in 2018, said Mr. Switzer.

Insurance renewal through USI insurance brokers was approved for 2018.  The total premium for all policies will be $303,877,000. This is a 2.8 percent increase overall from last year. It was noted that all vendors carry their own insurance.

There will be no airport board meeting in November, but on Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. there will be a board retreat for discussing the master plan.

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