March was a record-setting month for the Chattanooga Airport. Terry Hart, airport president, said enplanements were up for every carrier during the month. There were 47,310 boardings, an 18.74 percent increase over March 2018.
Delta was up 11 percent, American was up by 31 percent, United by 27 percent and Allegiant was up five percent. Some of that traffic was attributed to Spring Break.
Enplanements in the last quarter were up 11.06 percent over the same three-month period last year. "That is phenomenal growth," said Chairman of the Board Dan Jacobson. With the increase of business at the airport, Mr. Jacobson noted that, “The secret’s out that flying out of Chattanooga makes good sense.”
Landing weights were also up 20 percent over March 2018 and there was an increase in use of the parking lots. Cargo was nearly flat compared to 2018, but overall, it was a great month, said Mr. Hart.
The solar farm is nearing completion, but is already generating power.
Work has started on an expansion to the east ramp which has been partially funded by some state grants. Old buildings are being demolished in that location to redevelop into an extended ramp and pads for adding hangars. Also, stormwater improvements are being put in place. Work in that area is expected to be finished in November or December.
A new surface parking lot to be used for economy parking is now complete. Thomas Brothers Construction was praised for finishing the work ahead of schedule and under the original bid. It will provide an additional 525 spaces to bring the total available parking spots to about 2,900 at the airport.
Mr. Hart told the board that surface parking has been increased as much as it can be. The only way to add parking now is to go up. The new garage is being planned to add 1,300 spaces. It will cost an estimated $26 million. An RFP will be put out to get the best interest rate possible, he said. The recently completed economy parking lot addition was built to handle cars that will be displaced during construction of the garage.
Responding to a concern that Uber and Lyft might take the place of parking that will be needed, Mr. Hart said that a repurposing plan is being discussed while the project is in the planning stages in case parking needs change in the future. Different types of construction may alter the price of the structure, he said, but the ones that cost the least may require higher yearly maintenance expenses, he told the board.
The publication Aviation International News, ranked Fixed Base Operators around the country. FBOs provide aeronautical services such as fueling, hangars and parking for aircraft. Wilson Air Center at the Chattanooga Airport received a rating of 4.7 out of 5, said Mr. Hart.
March 31, 2019 was a big day for the airport, he said. That was when the final payment was made to pay off the bond issue from 1990 to construct the terminal.
There has been a 200-250 seat per day increase above the last couple of years for the carriers that service the Chattanooga Airport. Increased boardings get the attention of airlines, said Mr. Hart. Some additional services will be that Delta is adding a third round trip to Detroit and a larger plane will be used. United will make changes to the timing of flights to Dulles in order to make better connections there. American is introducing service to Philadelphia with one departure a day. No major changes are expected from Allegiant. There will now be 10 non-stop destinations originating from Chattanooga.
The board heard a formal presentation of the 2020 budget which they had helped create and had previewed prior to the meeting. Due to growth, operations are planned to increase five percent next year. Landing fees and terminal rent will increase. Parking rates were raised earlier this year to $12 per day for long term, $20 for short term and $9 for economy. Those rates will stay the same. Fuel sales and hangar rent are projected to increase three percent from the current year. Operational expenses are also planned to increase six percent due to growth.
There will be several capital investments made in 2020. Upgrades will be made to the security system and the security fence will be partially replaced. Three new passenger boarding bridges will be added, work on expansion of the east ramp will continue, a new hangar is being developed and construction of a new parking garage is expected to begin at the end of the year.