Despite long wait times at some airports, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport passengers say they're moving through the security checkpoint without lengthy lines — even though traffic could hit another record in 2016.
"I love it," said Lucy Brown of Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday about getting through security in Chattanooga. She said that flying out of Charlotte was "a little hectic" due to lines at its checkpoint.
Terry Hart, Lovell Field's chief executive, said that while lines in the Chattanooga terminal can back up some mornings, it's not to the point where waiting passengers spill out of the general checkpoint area.
"Our lines are minimal compared to other airports," he said earlier this week in the run-up to the traditional Memorial Day weekend crush.
Earlier this week, the airport manager at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was fired as pressure mounted there to fix long security wait times among other issues.
Last week, passengers in Chicago waited for three hours in line and, as a result, more than 400 American Airlines travelers missed flights in a single day. Wait times at JFK airport in March and April rose 80 percent from the same time last year.
Transportation Security Administration chief Peter V. Neffenger said that even with additional staffing help on the way to help process a record number of fliers, Americans could expect scant relief from long waits to clear security checkpoints.
However, Chattanooga Airport officials use the relative ease of moving through the checkpoint as another reason to encourage area travelers to fly from the city rather than drive to Atlanta or other airports.
Traffic has grown to record levels at Lovell Field, but Chattanooga's airport still handles only a fraction of the passengers other airports in the region handle, where passenger congestion and TSA check lines have been much longer.
Even when Chattanooga Airport users fly into Atlanta, the most frequent connection point for area travelers, they don't have to go through the Hartsfield-Jackson security lines to make their flight.
Steve Puderbaugh of Colorado said Thursday he has never had an issue flying out of Lovell Field when it comes to getting through the checkpoint.
"It's no problem here," he said.
Josh Montgomery of Kentucky said he flies out of Cincinnati's airport a lot and it has long lines, though they don't stop moving.
"I like the no-wait better here," he added.
Hart said this week that Chattanooga passenger boardings were flat in April, but still up 2 percent for the year.
He doesn't expect to see double-digit percentage gains again in airport boardings until the airlines start increasing the number of seats out of Chattanooga this summer. American Airlines is growing its seat count to Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth, Hart said.
But the big helper will be when United Airlines returns to Chattanooga and offers daily flights to the New York City area, as well as into Chicago starting in September.
For the first time in a dozen years, Chattanooga fliers will be able to travel nonstop to the Big Apple as United begins two daily flights to nearby Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
"More seats will be coming," Hart said.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.