Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport personnel will oversee the baggage handling and ticketing of Allegiant Air passengers when the carrier starts service to Orlando next month.
Airport officials said Monday the deal reduces Allegiant's cost to get into the market, and the move could lay the groundwork for Lovell Field employees to perform the same tasks for other airlines.
"It's certainly a possibility. It's not a given. It gets us looking and thinking," said Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority's chairman.
The airport panel agreed to create a general manager's position to oversee the Allegiant ground and ticketing operations in Chattanooga.
Mike Landguth, the airport president, said no one has been hired yet and he wouldn't say how much the full-time employee might be paid.
He said five or six other people will be hired part time.
Under the baggage handling agreement, Allegiant will pay the airport $1,000 per flight into Chattanooga, Mr. Landguth said. The airline will fly to Chattanooga four times a week starting Oct. 31.
Mr. Landguth said he expects the airport to make a $5,000 to $10,000 annual profit on the operation. More importantly, he said, the new air service will bring added people to the airport, where the Authority will gain revenues from parking, fees and concessions.
"We're looking at attracting more people here," the airport official said. Through August, Chattanooga airport boardings are down 6.1 percent over the same period last year.
Other airports such as Knoxville's are weighing similar moves. As many carriers struggle to make a profit and slash the number of available seats nationally, airlines and airports are seeing if baggage services can be done more efficiently.
McGhee Tyson Airport spokesman Dave Conklin said airports overseas typically handle such functions.
"That's a trend that is showing up in the U.S.," he said.
Mr. Conklin said most airports moving to take on traditional airline services don't get into fueling aircraft, though some do.
Mr. Landguth said Chattanooga airport fixed-base operator Tac Air will fuel Allegiant's planes.
Newly hired ticketing personnel will work out of the American Eagle counter at the airport, he said.
Mr. Landguth said other airlines are looking to see if the change would save them money as well.
"If we do this thing well, all the other things will address themselves," he said. "It's up to the airlines to see if it's right for them."
Low-fare carrier Allegiant will fly 150-seat jets into Orlando Sanford International Airport.
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