The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority’s new President and CEO April Cameron said she will steer the airport to attract more flights and more seats, even as airlines begin to send bigger planes to Chattanooga. The ongoing terminal expansion includes three new gates, and Ms. Cameron said the project is ahead of schedule though she would not commit to a completion date.
Ms. Cameron outlined her priorities for the Airport Board at its September meeting on Monday, the first board meeting since she assumed her new role Aug. 1.
She said she will build the airport’s relationships within the local community as well as its relationships with its airline partners, standing on the “strong financial foundation” and strong core staff built by her predecessor, Terry Hart.
“I am absolutely honored to be chosen for this position,” Ms. Cameron said.
She said the airport’s enplanements and load factors continue to increase year-over-year and that the airport fills 88 percent of its seat capacity even with bigger and bigger planes.
Ms. Cameron has planned a two-day summit the first week of October to “remarket and resell” the Chattanooga region to its current airline partners: American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Allegiant Air.
When they’re ready to expand, “We want to be first in line for them,” she said. “Let Chattanooga sell itself.”
Ellis Smith, director of intergovernmental and external affairs for the city of Chattanooga, told the group that Volkswagen had generated $3.5 billion for the city since it was built in 2012, and the multi-faceted South Broad redesign and development including the baseball stadium should double that in just a few years, he said.
“That’s a story of new butts for seats,” he said.
Ms. Cameron is also planning day trips to regional airports to “compare notes” and make changes that work, she said. In Asheville, N.C., the subject is air service development. In Huntsville, Ala., it’s economic development. Trips to Knoxville and Lexington, Ky., will plant the seeds for unnamed future collaborations, she said.
Commissioner David LittleJohn told the commission that the airport’s social media accounts have skyrocketed from 42 million views last month to 494 million views this month.
The airport’s public relations representative Albert Waterhouse said the airport is replacing photo posts with video posts, an industry trend that attracts more views. He also credited the sheer amount of local news, changes and announcements. Mr. Waterhouse said he will present a full report at the next board meeting.
Ms. Cameron said West Star Aviation’s Hangar 27, its fifth hanger, is complete. It will be used exclusively for Gulfstream aircraft repair operations. West Star employs 22 technicians who specialize in Gulfstream airframes.
“They are at capacity and already bursting at the seams,” Ms. Cameron said.
The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority welcomed Chip Baker to the board at its September meeting. The mayor of Chattanooga appoints all nine commissioners, who serve three-year terms.
Henrietta Stokes was reappointed to a three-year term Monday.
Ms. Cameron announced the airport’s new Director of Finance, Miguel Partak, and the new Information and Technology Manager, Eric Christensen.