POLL: Have you flown from the Chattanooga airport recently?
Indicating a stronger local economy, Chattanooga Airport on Monday reported a jump in January passenger boardings over a year ago, as well as a big rise in air cargo.
While January is typically one of the slowest months at the airport, officials lauded the growth.
"It's economic development in the community," Terry Hart, the airport's interim chief executive, told the Airport Authority in a meeting.
Boardings for the month climbed to 22,468 passengers, up 8 percent over January 2011. Allegiant Air boarded 37.3 percent more passengers in the month, airport officials said.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines, the airport's biggest carrier by number of passengers, posted a 15.6 percent gain, figures show.
Meanwhile, air cargo grew 303 percent in the month, according to the airport.
"Clearly, because of growth in our local businesses, there was an increase in the demand for cargo," said airport spokeswoman Christina Siebold.
Last October, Memphis-based FedEx Corp. started flying larger aircraft in and out of Chattanooga and leased airport hangar space for the first time, doubling its capacity for moving freight here.
A FedEx official said Volkswagen's $1 billion auto assembly plant and the broadening auto sector were one reason for the expansion.
Airport officials also cited the ramp up of Amazon.com's massive distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties late last year.
Siebold said the airport will receive more revenue based on air cargo because of the size of the aircraft FedEx uses and not how many parcels it carries. She said the airport is projecting it will earn about $100,000 this year, up more than five times from previous figures.
Airport Authority Chairman Dan Jacobson said he's encouraged about the hike in the number of passengers.
"It's a great sign of strength in the economy," he said.
Jim Hall, the panel's vice chairman, also said the cargo growth is "quite impressive."
Contact staff writer Mike Pare at 423-757-6318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.