Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport sets new traffic record after just 11 months

Travelers walk past rows of Christmas trees while traveling through the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. AAA forecasts a 3.1% increase in holiday travel over last year with an estimated 103 million Americans traveling between Dec. 23rd and Jan. 1st.

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport has set a new annual record for passenger boardings after just 11 months, which officials said Monday could bolster their case for wooing more airline service.

With December's boardings still to be counted, the airport already has sped past last year's mark - which also was a record - of 419,059 passengers, said Terry Hart, Lovell Field's chief executive.

Through November, the airport had boardings of 446,203 passengers, figures show. That's up 16.7 percent over the same period in 2016.

Hart told Airport Authority members during a meeting that when December figures are included, officials expect boardings to come in at about 485,000 passengers for all of 2017.

"We're looking forward to a strong December," he said.

Chattanooga air traffic

Lovell Field has set a new passenger boardings mark after just 11 months of 2017. Below is the 2017 figure through November and annual passenger figures over the four prior years:› 2017: 446,203 (through November)› 2016: 419,059› 2015: 392,139› 2014: 352,459› 2013: 309,235Source: Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport

Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority's chairman, said Lovell Field is finishing the year on a high note.

He said all of the airlines serving Chattanooga's airport are up for the year in terms of passenger boardings.

"In time, that will translate into new service opportunities," Jacobson said.

Hart said the higher boardings are driven by business and other growth in the Chattanooga area.

"We're responding to that," he said.

Also, Chattanooga's airport is seeing the affect of added service into the New York City area and to Chicago on United Airlines, Hart said.

The airport CEO said the airlines could choose to boost service in Chattanooga, either through adding new nonstops to other cities not currently being served or increasing the size or frequency of existing aircraft.

"We'd like to see both," Hart said.

Delta Air Lines, which carries the most passengers in and out of Chattanooga, had a nearly 9 percent gain in boardings through November over last year, he said.

American Airlines posted a 7.4 percent increase in boardings out of Chattanooga, figures show.

Allegiant Air, which carries fliers to the Orlando and St. Petersburg, Fla., markets, saw boardings climb 2.3 percent in the period.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.