Airport Taking on Services

The Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority on Wednesday approved a plan to take over "underwing services" currently handled by airlines at McGhee Tyson Airport.

Services include ramp operations; aircraft marshaling and parking; baggage loading and unloading; cabin cleaning; and ground service equipment.

Providing these services would put McGhee Tyson "on the forefront of aviation operations" and position the airport "to be more competitive in attracting new flights and airlines while providing an increased level of customer service" Airport Authority Chairman Kirk Huddleston said in a statement.

The move is aimed at saving money and consolidating operations, said Dave Conklin, vice president of marketing for the Airport Authority.

How much the service would cost and how many employees would be needed, depends on how many airlines participate in the optional program. The Airport Authority also hopes by providing underwing services it can attract new airlines to McGhee Tyson.

Taking over those jobs could be enticing to other airlines, which would not be saddled with those services and could reduce operating costs, said Scott Gilpatric, an assistant professor of economics specializing in industrial organization at the University of Tennessee's Corporate Governance Center.

"I can certainly see how the economics of that would make sense," Gilpatric said. He speculates that one of the reasons the Airport Authority is looking at this is to "lower the cost of entering the market."

The authority spent $27,000 for Maryville-based The Masters Group to study the issue.

The move has worked in some other cities that are about the same size as McGhee Tyson.



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