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Airport Authority lowers the bill for airlines

Hank Hayes • Jun 26, 2020 at 7:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — To get airlines to stay and increase flights, the Tri-Cities Airport Authority approved a 5% decrease in rates and charges on Thursday.

Those rates and charges include landing fees and rent for terminal building ticket counters.

“Our goal is to help lower the impact of COVID-19,” airport Executive Director Gene Cossey said during an Airport Authority meeting held via Zoom.

Leisure travel is coming back, as there have been zero flight cancellations this month, but Cossey noted his concern is when business travel will return. Passengers traveling on business account for about 55 to 60% of the airport’s customer base, according to the TCA’s 2019 annual report.

The airport anticipates a net operating loss of about $311,000 for the 2020 fiscal year and a $476,000 loss for the 2021 fiscal year, Airport Authority commissioners were told. Still, the airport can draw up to $10.3 million from the federal government under the CARES Act to cover any operating losses.

“Traffic in May was down about 84.7% just for the month,” said airport Finance Director Rene Weber. “Prior to that (pandemic) period, we were running double-digit increases across the board on revenue items of all types. We were having a tremendous year through mid-March and then the bottom fell out.”

At its Thursday meeting, Airport Authority board members also passed a $7.2 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year that includes a 2% percent across-the-board pay raise for airport employees.

“We do believe personnel have done an amazing job in the last few months dealing with the COVID-19 situation,” Cossey noted. “We do believe this 2% is good for them and that we want to tell them how much we appreciate them.”

The airport is served by Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Allegiant Air.

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