Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport will see an earlier and heavier morning departure schedule starting next month, and officials are calling on travelers to arrive two hours before their flights.
American Airlines is moving up the departure of three daily flights to earlier in the morning starting Sept. 9, and carriers at the airport are adding bigger planes to handle an increase in passenger traffic, officials said.
"This is an example of the exponential growth our airport is seeing," said Chattanooga Airport President Terry Hart. "However, this signifies the importance of arriving much earlier for flights."
Flights to Charlotte and Dallas-Fort Worth will shift from 6 a.m. departures to 5:08 a.m. and 5:42 a.m., respectively, according to the airport. Also, another flight to Charlotte is moving from 9:17 a.m. to 7:08 a.m.
Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport has seen five consecutive years of record boardings and is forecasting a sixth in 2019:
* 2018 - 504,298
* 2017 - 484,517
* 2016 - 419,059
* 2015 - 392,139
* 2014 - 352,459
Source: Chattanooga Airport
An American flight to Philadelphia is moving back its departure from 6:50 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., the new schedule shows.
Still, 10 flights with 791 total passenger seats will depart from Chattanooga before 8 a.m., representing a 28% increase in morning airport activity starting Sept. 9, the airport said. Officials said Transportation Security Administration checkpoint staff will be available to accommodate the earlier departure times.
Air traveler Frank Yin of Chattanooga said Tuesday at the airport he now tries to arrive at Lovell Field between one hour to one-and-a-half hours before his flight.
Yin said he always tries to fly out of Chattanooga rather than drive to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
"I like the airport very much," he said.
Airport officials expect 2019 to turn in another record year of traffic with passenger boardings coming in around 550,000. Boardings through July are 12.52% above the same level a year ago, according to Lovell Field figures.
Through July, American Airlines flights have seen the biggest percent gain, up 15.6% to 112,667 passenger boardings, figure show.
But, Delta Air Lines still is the airport's busiest carrier as it boarded 148,531 passengers through July, up 12.7%, according to Lovell Field.
The airport has seen five consecutive years of record traffic as it benefits from a strong Chattanooga area economy and more flights, officials said.
Earlier this month, officials said they planned to seek proposals for the design and building of a 1,300-space parking garage, which would be the first parking deck for the airport.
Hart hoped work on a $25 million garage could start next spring, financed by rental car revenues and airport money. The four-level garage could open in spring 2021, he said.
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