published Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Worry arises over new American Airlines service at Chattanooga Airport

The Chattanooga Airport terminal.
The Chattanooga Airport terminal.
Photo by Dan Henry.

BY THE NUMBERS

Fliers carried by US Airways and American out of Chattanooga through the third quarter of 2013:

• US Airways: 57,847

• American: 26,744

Source: Chattanooga Airport

Chattanoogan Karen Gilbert travels by air several times a month and likes flying from Lovell Field to Chicago's O'Hare Airport to connect to points west.

But she worries the new American Airlines may eventually drop the Chattanooga-to-Chicago service and instead use its Dallas-Fort Worth hub, which has fewer flights than O'Hare.

"I'll drive to Nashville and fly Southwest [Airlines]" if that happens, she said Monday.

Air travelers flying from Chattanooga Airport likely will see little change in the short term from the merger of American and US Airways to create the world's biggest airline, officials said.

However, when the new airline ultimately consolidates services as has occurred in other such mergers, Chattanooga will only have two mainline carriers flying out of the city for the first time in decades.

Delta Air Lines is the other full-service airline at the airport. Low-fare carrier Allegiant Air also flies out of Chattanooga, but it's not everyday service.

Currently from Chattanooga, US Airways has six daily departures to Charlotte, N.C., and one to Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport. American has two daily departures to Dallas and one to Chicago.

In Chattanooga, the managers of operations for American and US Airways said Monday they've not been informed of any changes to the ticket counters at this time, so the airlines will continue to operate separate ones, according to airport spokesman Albert Waterhouse.

"They did say the codeshare [agreement] is expected to go into effect in early January," he said. Customers who book a flight to or through Charlotte or Washington, D.C. will begin seeing American's code on their tickets at that time, Waterhouse said.

Traveler Chris Howley, who was flying Monday from Chattanooga on US Airways, said there likely will be changes as the airlines try to find efficiencies.

He said he usually flies Delta, but US Airway's flight on Monday was $600 less.

"That's service I'd like to see us keep," Howley said.

US Airways is Chattanooga's Airport's second busiest carrier behind Delta. American is third. Together, boardings by US Airways and American in Chattanooga will still trail Delta's leading position in the market.

Terry Hart, Chattanooga Airport's chief executive, has said that consolidation of some of airlines already, such as Delta's combination with Northwest Airlines, and United's marriage with Continental Airlines, has added much-needed stability in the industry.

Chattanooga lost nonstop flights to Memphis in the wake of the Delta-Northwest merger, but it also gained service to Detroit.

Chattanooga Airport officials are looking at the potential for added service from airlines industrywide. Houston, a big connection point for travelers flying to other Southern cities, the West and to Mexico, has been raised as a site that would fit Chattanooga's air service needs.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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