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Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport sets new passenger records

This article was originally published on timesfreepress.com.

Chattanooga Airport in 2018 set new records for passenger boardings and total traffic — topping 1 million commercial airline users — as it benefits from the city's growing economy and more flights, officials say.

Passenger boardings hit 504,298 last year, the first time ever over a half million, up 4.08 percent from 2017. Total inbound and outbound traffic in 2018 soared to 1,002,414 passengers, according to the airport.

"When you look at our growth, it ties into all the economic growth in the region," said airport Chief Executive Officer Terry Hart at a meeting of the Airport Authority on Friday.

Each of the four airlines serving Lovell Field recorded increases in boardings last year, figures show.

Delta Air Lines continued as the busiest carrier, posting boardings of 243,149 passengers, up 5.19 percent for the year.

On a percent basis, low-fare airline Allegiant Air put up the biggest gain, up 6.68 percent.

In addition to the region's economy, Hart said the airport is capturing more North Georgia travelers.

"Our catchment area keeps growing," he said.

For example, before and after last weekend's Super Bowl in Atlanta, Hart said there were a number of fans at Chattanooga Airport wearing jerseys from the New England Patriots or the Los Angeles Rams.

He believed that a ticket pricing surge at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport prompted some commercial airline fliers to use Lovell Field.

"There were even some on the general aviation side," Hart said.

Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority's chairman, cited the "record-setting milestone" for 2018 air traffic.

He said the airport is keeping existing business in the Chattanooga area and drawing new commerce.

Last year was the fifth consecutive year that Chattanooga Airport set a passenger boarding record.

With the growth, airport officials are trying to keep up with infrastructure needs and prepare for the future.

On Friday, Hart said the airport is targeting a March 15 completion for a new 520-space parking lot off Airport Road.

He added that he expects early work to begin on the airport's first parking garage this year.

Airport officials also agreed Friday to expand an existing fuel farm at the airport by 60,000 gallons. About 40,000 gallons of that will make up for plans to take a different, aging fuel farm out of service, but the other 20,000 gallons is to handle airport growth, Hart said.

That work by fuel provider Titan Aviation isn't expected to exceed $754,000, he said.

In addition, the airport panel agreed to buy a 2.4-acre site off Watts Avenue near the airport for $235,000. Hart said the tract is adjacent to airport property that could be turned into a new maintenance facility. That would open up the location for the existing maintenance site to be used for another purpose that would garner added revenues, he said.