TCRA in black, but margins remain tight

Hank Hayes • Dec 15, 2012 at 11:17 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Tri-Cities Regional Airport is flying in the black but with tight operating margins, according to the airport’s financial report for the most recent fiscal year ending June 30.

That report, reviewed on Thursday by Airport Authority commissioners on TCRA’s Administrations/Operations Committee, pointed out airline revenue was up nearly 3 percent due to “an expanding economy ... and increased terminal rents.”

Parking revenues were up nearly 5 percent, while rental car revenue jumped more than 10 percent because of increased passenger traffic.

Overall, operating revenues moved from $5.8 million to $6.1 million during the fiscal year. Operating expenses totaled $5.4 million, up slightly from $5.3 million in 2011.

Ridership during the period reached more than 446,500 incoming and outgoing passengers, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.

“During the 2012 fiscal year, passenger aircraft loads increased 10.3 percent, which was due primarily to a 5.9 percent reduction of available aircraft seats. ... Generally, national and local economic improvements support passenger increases in air travel,” the report said. “Thus, due to improved economic conditions, travel trends at Tri-Cities Regional Airport continued to show increasing passenger numbers.”

The ridership increase occurred despite American Eagle’s decision to end its TCRA-to-Chicago service last February. TCRA is now served by Delta Connection flights to Atlanta, U.S. Airways Express flights to Charlotte and Allegiant Air’s low-fare service to Orlando and St. Petersburg-Clearwater.

The TCRA financial report also noted better retail sales performance nationally and locally, in addition to improved labor market conditions.

Historically, business travelers have accounted for approximately 60 percent of TCRA’s customer base, which makes the airport “subject to higher fares and potentially vulnerable to airline bankruptcies and mergers,” the report observed.

Total airport net assets moved up slightly to $73.1 million from $70.6 million in the previous fiscal year. TCRA’s debt at the end of this fiscal year stood at $5.1 million.

The report also mentioned TCRA’s ongoing capital projects progress, including a south side taxiway extension and its main runway resurfacing, with both scheduled to be complete late next year. TCRA’s general aviation terminal, run by Tri-City Aviation, was remodeled this year, while a new hangar was opened on the south side airfield.

The 2012 fiscal year is the last year TCRA was governed by a 12-member Airport Commission. Last month, an Airport Authority became the new governing structure overseeing TCRA..

TCRA, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, has 44 full-time and 21 part-time employees.

For 13 years in a row, TCRA has been awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association.

For more, go to www.triflight.com.

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