While air traffic in 2009 may be hard to predict amid the slow economy, long-term growth in the region is positive, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport's president says.
"I think everyone in Chattanooga is still very excited about the VW announcement, the Alstom expansion and the growth of BlueCrossBlueShield of Tennessee," said airport chief Mike Landguth.
The airport reported that passenger traffic in 2008 started strong, but it faded as the economy slowed.
"We all follow the daily news on the economy, and the harsh reality is that when the economy struggles, people fly less," said Mr. Landguth.
The airport posted a 2 percent drop in boardings in 2008 over the prior year. Still, Lovell Field finished 2008 with the sixth-best year on record since reports started being kept in the early 1970s. For 2008, the airport had 301,338 boardings, according to the airport.
The airport's best year ever was 1993, when boardings hit a high of 311,204 passengers.
Mr. Landguth said 2008 started strong, but the recession and fuel crisis gripped the national economy. That, he said, slowed demand for many goods and services, including travel.
Still, Mr. Landguth said, many businesses are working smart and still thriving in the worldwide economic downturn.
He said the airport in 2009, as all businesses, is consistently evaluating every area of its operations.
Mr. Landguth said that "based on long-term indicators, we feel very positive about the future of the region."
Also, while the economy slowed, many air fares also have come down.
Jimmy Campbell, president of Apollo Travel Agency in Chattanooga, said fares earlier this year were as low as he had seen them in a while.
"International fares are way down," he said. But air travelers still need to buy tickets at least 14 days in advance.
LOVELL FIELD BOARDINGS
Last five years
2008 - 301,338
2007 - 307,500
2006 - 254,959
2005 - 258,745
2004 - 244,470
Source: Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport