Local gas prices drop last week

After nearly two months of rising fuel costs, the price at the gas pump in Chattanooga fell for a second consecutive week last week.

The average price of regular gas dropped another 0.4 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.58 per gallon on Monday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 170 stations in Chattanooga. Gas prices in Chattanooga are 16.6 cents per gallon higher than a month ago and stand 92.5 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.

Despite the jump in gas prices so far in 2021, Chattanooga gas prices remain 26 cents a gallon below the U.S. average of $2.84 a gallon, said.

"After the feverish rise in gas prices to start the year, increases have largely tapered off and we're now seeing decreasing prices in most areas of the country, thanks to oil prices that have moderated for the time being," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. "Last week saw total gasoline demand at yet another pandemic high according to GasBuddy data. As we approach warmer weather and motorists are increasingly getting outside, it could drive prices higher, so long as COVID-19 cases don't jump along with it and lead to new travel restrictions."


Georgia Port expands after record shipments

The Georgia Ports Authority Board Monday approved plans to increase the Port of Savannah's container capacity by 20 percent.

Dubbed the Peak Capacity project, the expansion project will establish 2,100 new grounded container slots and add 650,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units of annual container yard capacity in two phases, with the first opening in September.

"Right now, we are moving container volumes that we did not expect to see for another four years," said Griff Lynch, the executive director for the Georgia Port Authority.

GPA Chairman Will McKnight said container trade at the Savannah port "has experienced unprecedented growth over the past six months.

"This addition is among several that will address the needs of port users experiencing a sharp increase in demand, while also preparing Savannah to take on additional business over the long term," McNight said.

In its busiest February ever, the Port of Savannah moved 390,804 TEUs of cargo, an increase of 7.2 percent, or 26,400 TEUs compared to February 2020.

"In terms of cargo volumes, we've added the equivalent of an extra month of trade since September," Lynch said.


Southwest to buy 100 Boeing Max jets

Southwest Airlines said Monday it is expanding its all-Boeing fleet with an order for 100 Max jets instead of buying planes from Europe's Airbus.

Southwest ordered the 150-seat 737 Max 7 and expects the first 30 to show up next year. It is also converting orders for 70 Max 8s to the smaller model.

The Dallas-based airline publicly mused about buying the Airbus A220 instead, sending executives on a scouting trip to Europe. It would have been a huge blow to Boeing — in money and pride — if Southwest, its biggest customer, had gone with Airbus. However, CEO Gary Kelly said sticking with Boeing "was our preference all along."

Financial terms of the deal were not announced. The Max 7 lists for $99.7 million, although airlines routinely receive huge discounts.

The new Max 7s eventually will replace Southwest's aging fleet of 143-seat Boeing 737-700s while providing better fuel mileage.

Combined with past orders, Chicago-based Boeing is in line to build more than 600 Max 7 and Max 8 jets for Southwest through 2031. Southwest expects to spend about $5.1 billion on aircraft through 2026.


American Airlines back to pre-pandemic boardings

American Airlines said Monday that bookings are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels as more people get vaccinated, but public health leaders repeated their concern that travel will spread the virus as new reported infections grow in the United States.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she had a feeling of "impending doom," and suggested that virus cases could be about to spike in the United States as they've done in several European countries.

"What we're seeing now is more travel than we saw throughout the pandemic, including the Christmas and New Year's holidays," which were followed by surges in new cases, Walensky said at a White House briefing. "I would just sort of reiterate the recommendations from CDC, saying please limit travel to essential travel for the time being."

Evidence is growing, however, that Americans are eager to drive or fly somewhere after being mostly cooped up at home for a year.

At U.S. airports, Sunday marked the 18th straight day of more than 1 million people streaming through checkpoints. That is easily the most prolonged travel rebound during the pandemic, although Sunday's crowds were still 37% below the comparable Sunday in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner