Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport appears headed for a third consecutive year of record passenger boardings after the prior high mark set in 1993 had held for two decades:
2016: 415,000 (projected)
Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport in October posted its biggest-ever month for passenger boardings as it's poised to power to a new annual record.
October boardings were 42,948 passengers as new United Airlines service helped fuel the high mark, said Airport Chief Executive Terry Hart on Monday.
For the full year, Hart told members of the Airport Authority at a meeting that he expects Lovell Field to top 400,000 boardings for the first time ever, coming in at about 415,000 passengers for 2016.
Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority's chairman, said Lovell is reaching "new heights" with boardings up about 25 percent over the last three years.
"It's a huge testament to the region," he said. "We're hitting on all cylinders."
United Airlines started service in Chattanooga in September, helping to drive the passenger figures this fall.
But, Hart said, Delta Air Lines, the airport's busiest carrier, has seen boardings rise 2.5 percent through November. Also, American Airlines posted a 6 percent gain in passengers over the period, he said.
United, which has nonstop flights between Chattanooga and Chicago and the New York area, has grappled with bad weather which has caused some flight cancellations, Hart said.
But, he said, he's not seeing a performance problem with the airline even though some complaints have surfaced on Facebook about service.
Hart said load factors, how full United's planes are in and out of Chattanooga, are about 75 percent on the Chicago service and 60 percent on the Newark Liberty International Airport flights.
He said if Lovell Field's growth continues, there's potential for adding nonstop flights to more airport hubs, such as Houston and Denver.
According to the airport, November passenger boardings were 39,383, up 15.7 percent over the same month a year ago.
Through November, boardings are 382,224 passengers, figures show. For the year, boardings are up 5.8 percent over a year ago.
Landing weights through November at the airport are up about 10 percent over the same period in 2015.
"That's a result of more and bigger aircraft," Hart said.
He said the Chattanooga area is seeing more business activity and competitive fares, and that's helping to drive the overall increase in boardings.
The airport CEO said more people are originating their flights from Chattanooga instead of traveling to another airport such as in Nashville or Atlanta to fly.
He said airport officials also are continuing to try to woo fliers from the north Atlanta suburbs to travel to Chattanooga rather than go to Atlanta.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.