Money was on the minds of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority Board of Commissioners as fiscal year 2019 winds down to its June 30 end.

On Wednesday the board approved a FY 2020 McGhee Tyson Airport budget of $36.7 million in operating revenue, with operating expenses and debt service budgeted at $31.5 million.

The MKAA capital improvements program that was approved includes $33.2 million for McGhee Tyson, $295,000 for Knoxville Downtown Island Airport and $2.2 million in expenditures for the proposed Oak Ridge Airport to be funded with a combination of federal grants, state grants and MKAA funds.

The other big-bucks decision was approval of a $18.6 million contract to The Harper Co. for the Runway 5L/23R Reconstruction Project 4. Harper’s bid was the only bid received for the project, an issue that was discussed with the Federal Aviation Administration, which approved going forward without a rebid.

As capital improvements continue at McGhee Tyson, so does passenger count. President Patrick Wilson said airline passenger traffic grew for the 36th consecutive month in April as the airport’s five commercial carriers served 189,413 passengers, an increase of 9.5% compared to the same month last year. That makes April 2019 the busiest April in McGhee Tyson Airport history.

American’s big jets back

American Airlines has reintroduced “mainline” jet service to the airport by launching new flights at McGhee Tyson with the introduction of the 124-seat Airbus A319 in service on select flights to both Dallas/Fort Worth and Charlotte.

Allegiant has its full summer schedule in place with new seasonal flights to Pittsburgh and Denver along with the reintroduction of service to Destin/Fort Walton Beach and Baltimore/Washington.

Wilson told commissioners that McGhee Tyson Airport is now leading Allegiant companywide in on-time performance and operational reliability.

Dealing with longer lines

The increased passenger traffic has been a challenge with airport staff urging passengers to arrive at the terminal two hours before their flights to ensure they will be processed through the security checkpoints in time to depart on schedule.

Asked if passengers have complained about longer lines, Patrick said, “So far the summer has really gone well. TSA has done a lot to prepare for it. We have staffed up with some additional customer service agents at the beginning of the line to get people prepared to move through that process as soon as possible.”

To help shorten the time passengers spend standing in line, the MKAA board approved Wednesday the awarding to Service One of a $555,450 contract to add an additional screening lane to the existing screening checkpoint, providing a total of four TSA screening lanes.

In nonfiscal matters, Ursula Bailey was sworn in to retain her seat as commissioner, and the board re-elected all the current officers of the MKAA board: Chair Eddie Mannis, Vice Chair Brian Simmons, Secretary Charles Harr and Assistant Secretary Joe Dawson.

Bob has served in a variety of roles since joining The Daily Times in the 90s. He currently is editor of the business section. When someone gets promoted, retires or gets hired at a new job in Blount County, he's the man to email.

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