Groome shuttle service faces peak day

Groome shuttle service faces peak day

November 26th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Driver Tal Larson loads luggage for a passenger at Groome Transportation in East Ridge, where the company plans to build a new building. Groome operates dozens of daily van trips that connect Chattanooga passengers to airports in Nashville and Atlanta.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

ABOUT GROOME


Started: Richmond, Va., in 1947

Business: Shared ride shuttle and charter services

Airports: Richmond International Airport; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Nashville International Airport

Areas served: Chattanooga, Nashville, Atlanta, Macon/Warner Robins, Ga.; Columbus/Fort Benning, Ga.; Athens, Ga.; Richmond

Groome Transportation will mark its busiest day of the year Sunday when it runs 60 shuttle vans -- nearly double that of a typical day -- between Chattanooga and airports in Atlanta and Nashville.

"We'll probably carry 800 people," said John Collison, Groome's operations director.

To meet growing demand, Collison said Groome early next year will spend well over $1 million on a new Ringgold Road facility.

A 3,400-square-foot brick and stucco building will replace its existing modular structure and about double Groome's space, he said.

"We'll have a bigger waiting area and ticketing kiosks," said Collison. He said the company will encourage more online reservations and permit travelers to pick up their tickets at a kiosk just as they would at an airport terminal.

This year, Collison expects business to grow about 9 percent over 2010.

Groome benefits from its proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the nation's busiest.

Recent Lovell Field figures show that nearly two of every three travelers in the Chattanooga metropolitan area fly out of other cities. Atlanta's airport captured 53 percent of all air travelers from the Chattanooga area, according to Sixel Consulting Group of Dallas.

Joe Morris, of Warner Robins, Ga., said at Groome this week that he has used the van service three times in the past to fly to Michigan from Atlanta.

"It's good service. It's affordable," he said.

In addition to taking travelers to and picking them up at Atlanta's and Nashville's airports, some people also use Groome to go point to point by van.

Barbara Walker, of Chattanooga, was picking up her 80-year-old aunt who was traveling up via Groome from Atlanta. They were then driving to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., she said.

Walker said she likes to use Groome because it's organized.

"They go overboard to serve the passenger," she said.

Collison cited the reliability of its service.

"We take you to the front door of your airline and drop you off at the ticketing counter," he said.

Groome owns the six-acre site where it has been located since 2006, when the company moved into the city.

The new facility also will have a service area for its vans where it will provide minor maintenance, Collison said.