Airport eyes changes for German air traffic

-- Mar. 3--The Chattanooga airport may require more air service and adjusted flight schedules to meet the needs of German companies locating in the area, an official says. "There's always the potential to do that," Chattanooga...


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Mar. 3--The Chattanooga airport may require more air service and adjusted flight schedules to meet the needs of German companies locating in the area, an official says.

"There's always the potential to do that," Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport President Mike Landguth said.

Rather than create any international flights, changes likely would come domestically as planned plants come online, he said.

Volkswagen is building is assembly plant at Enterprise South industrial park, and another German firm announced last week it will construct a $1 billion factory in Bradley County to make hyperpure polycrystalline silicon, a base product in solar-powered cells.

Airport officials are evaluating a possible route to service Herndon, Va., near Washington, D.C., where VW Group of America has its corporate office.

"That would be a likely scenario for a service addition," Mr. Landguth said. "All that is predicated on the type of demand they'd have."

While Chattanooga has one nonstop between the city and Washington, that flight goes into Reagan National Airport while VW's headquarters is closer to Dulles International Airport.

VW and its suppliers likely will add about 6,000 more passenger boardings annually at the airport, or 2 percent over existing traffic, airport officials have said.

However, it's too early to know how Wacker Chemical Corp.'s Bradley County plant might affect air service, Mr. Landguth noted.

Now is a difficult time for airlines to add service due to the economy, Mr. Landguth acknowledged. But, he said, the airport has made the airlines aware of the future needs in the area.

"Their sales force already is in contact with VW," Mr. Landguth said.

Jimmy Campbell, president of Apollo Travel Agency, said there's no question air traffic between Germany and Chattanooga will jump.

Mr. Campbell said that Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport offers nonstop flights to Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich, where Wacker is headquartered.

Nonstops are offered to Frankfurt and Munich from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C.

Volkswagen's home office is in Wolfsburg in north-central Germany.

West Oehmig, chairman of Tennessee Valley Travel Agency, said he sees the possibility for more flights between the city and airline hubs servicing Chattanooga.

But, he said, he doesn't see an uptick in German business until 2010 when the VW plant gets closer to production and Wacker ramps up its business.

Airport executives will discuss Wacker's commitment with a firm that does planning for the airport and see if any traffic forecasts are changed.

Some German travelers will fly on corporate aircraft to the airport. The airport has plans to allow foreign corporate passengers who fly into Lovell Field the chance to clear U.S. Customs in Chattanooga.

Customs clearance has been approved by the federal government, but has not been funded. Implementation would involve a computer monitor with a secure link to Washington, D.C., Mr. Landguth said.

The airport can garner revenues from corporate aircraft in parking and fuel fees and if travelers rent cars.

Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., experienced growth at its airport due to BMW's arrival in the mid-1990s, but the increase wasn't explosive, according to the airport.

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