The Chattanooga Metropolitain Airport Authority Board of Commissioners celebrated the addition of nonstop air service to Las Vegas at its monthly board meeting Monday. Twice-weekly service via Allegiant Airlines will begin in May 2024.
“We are absolutely thrilled to expand our partnership to this destination,” said airport President and CEO April Cameron. “This is just the beginning.”
“We have a lot to be thankful for,” she said.
Ms. Cameron said she wants the news, announced earlier this month, to encourage Chattanooga’s three other carriers to expand, too.
Allegiant’s Airbus A320 single-aisle aircraft chosen for the trip will seat 180 people.
Ms. Cameron reported that Chattanooga’s October enplanements are up by 21 percent compared with the same month in 2022, at 45,996. The expected enplanements for the year are 475,000, approaching the 554,000 of pre-pandemic 2019.
In the coming weeks a firm will present a leakage data report, detailing by ZIP code where the airport’s passengers really come from, and where they’re really going. This new data will be invaluable for the airport’s future plans. Chattanooga’s most recent leakage data was reported in 2019.
“Our new team is coming in with an enthusiasm that I think is exciting,” said board Chairman Jim Hall.
LEISURE TRAVEL AND ATTRACTING BIGGER PLANES
Kristen Behm, vice president of CHA public relations and air service development, attended a round table at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky., which focused on “restoration” of routes, service, pilots and planes from the airlines’ point of view. The fix will stretch into 2025, she said. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts a disruptive shortage of air traffic controllers in the New York City area – about half of positions are filled -- will recover around October 2024, she said.
Leisure travel is the next opportunity, she said, with airports vying for direct service to Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico. To make these routes more profitable, airlines are offering first class and business class seats on all flights, and they’re selling out.
“The more they add, the more they sell,” Ms. Behm said.
Chattanooga has planned to attract midsize planes as busy hubs buy bigger models, but supply chain issues mean delivery delays, so Chattanooga will have to wait for its bigger planes, she said.
“Chattanooga will be the beneficiary of ‘upgaging,’” she said.
The airport’s load factor hovers at 89 percent.
“We are continuing to fill the seats that we have,” Ms. Cameron said.
Airport officials also have visited McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville to study airport police.
2 NEW HANGARS AT WEST STAR
The board approved $524,721 for a design by Allen & Hoshall for two, 20,000-square-foot hangars at West Star Aviation. The hangars are part of the 2019 airport master plan and will sit on the last piece of undeveloped property. The design also includes 4,000 square feet of office and shop space.
Ninety-five percent of the cost is covered by state funds and 5 percent by Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport funds. Each hangar will hold five to eight planes. The project was begun in September and should be complete by the spring.
TERMINAL EXPANSION NEARING COMPLETION
The terminal expansion is set to open in the first quarter of 2024. Ms. Cameron said that Delta Air Lines will probably occupy the new gates. New screens in the terminal will be dedicated to a live feed of a Tennessee Aquarium tank.
“You can watch the fish while you’re waiting in our two-minute TSA line,” Ms. Cameron said.
A representative from Elliott Davis accounting firm reported that the airport has had a solid financial year. Its net assets increased from $170 million last year to $192 million this year, due to capital grants for construction of the new terminal.