Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, already on pace for a record-breaking year in passenger boardings, is expected to gain a big lift from new United Airlines service, officials said Monday.
United, slated to start nonstops between Chattanooga and the New York City area and Chicago on Sept. 7, will help the airport top 400,000 passenger boardings for the first time ever this year if figures stay on course, said Terry Hart, Lovell Field's chief.
The airline will add about 200 seats a day to the Chattanooga market with the new flights, he said during a meeting of the Airport Authority.
Through July, boardings are up 2.46 percent over the same period last year, when the airport set a new record of 392,139 passengers.
Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority's chairman, said Lovell Field is attracting more travelers from East Tennessee and North Georgia.
"I'm hearing a lot of buzz in regard to United," he said.
Hart said United is pleased so far with initial bookings for the new service, which will offer two roundtrips daily to both Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
The airport, with help from Chattanooga firm Maycreate, has fashioned a marketing effort that includes advertising in newspapers, magazines, and on billboards, along with an internet site and social media presence to woo travelers to the service.
Hart has said the airport is spending $60,000 to $70,000 for marketing United along with another $140,000 for Maycreate's services. He told the Authority that plans are to keep the campaign going by focusing on other nonstops from Chattanooga.
Also, United plans to market the service when the airport's campaign ends, Hart said.
"United has done a great job with promotional fares," he said.
Authority member Warren Barnett asked if the airport had seen "push back" from other airlines.
"We haven't seen much from American [Airlines] or Delta [Air Lines]," Hart said.
He said United may take some customers away from those carriers, but the aim is to capture travelers who may be driving to another airport to fly and stimulate more overall traffic.
Hart also said that, if the United service is well used by air travelers, the carrier could increase the size of the aircraft out of Chattanooga.
In addition, United could start service from Chattanooga to other hubs, he said.
Hart said there have been talks with United about its Miami and Houston hubs, but the airline isn't growing service there at this time.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.