We are working in a time of uncertainty. Where information sharing is key to our successful operation. This webpage was designed to provide you with current updates on the operations at TYS and DKX while things are changing so rapidly.

Keeping our passengers, guests and employees healthy, safe and informed is our top priority.

August 28, 2020 - Air Service Update: At the beginning of March 2020, TYS was on pace to have its fourth record breaking year in passenger traffic. We had just opened a new lane at the checkpoint, reconfigured parking and had started working on plans to expand other areas of the airport. This information is important to remember because it speaks to the demand for air travel that our community has and will have again.

By April, our passenger numbers were at our lowest point, down 96%. Since that time, we have seen a steady increase in passenger numbers, with the latest report showing TYS down 73% over 2019 numbers. To put these numbers into perspective, last year we saw 2.5 million passengers at TYS. This year, we estimate that we could possibly reach 1 million passengers based upon the current aviation environment. Our passenger numbers are in line with other airports across the nation. And like the national trend, we are seeing a slow return to travel by leisure passengers. Business, government and international travel are still extremely low.

As you may have read, the airlines that serve our market are making changes. Some airlines have withdrawn their larger aircraft and replaced them with regional jets. Others have reduced the number of daily flights into and out of TYS. While others, like American Airlines and Allegiant Air, have brought back service that was suspended during the early days of the pandemic. Allegiant Air has even launched new destinations this summer.

For early fall (October timeframe), we are anticipating a continued increase in passengers and flights. Industry experts believe the recovery will be “choppy”, meaning airlines will add flights and remove them from their schedule frequently based upon passenger demand. The earliest predicted full recovery to the industry is 2024 or beyond.

Other Tenant Updates: While we are seeing great movement in the number and frequency of daily flights into and out of TYS, we are also seeing changes in the operations of tenants at our airport. For example, PSA Airlines has moved their crew base out of TYS and United Airlines has broken ties with

ExpressJet, leading to potential furloughs for both organizations. While PSA’s pilots, flight attendants and administrators, who were based at TYS may be offered the chance to move to other markets, others may not. At this time, PSA’s decision does not impact the number of flights available in our market. As for the ExpressJet announcement, we are still working to determine the direct impact this will have at TYS.

In the coming months, things will continue to change for our airline partners. Because the CARES Act required that any airline that received support funding maintain at least 90% of their workforce until September 30, 2020, these are just the first of potentially many airline and airport tenant announcements that will have an impact on the operations at TYS. Airlines have already begun to notify their employees of potential furloughs and layoffs.

MKAA Financial Update: MKAA has taken proactive steps to maintain our operations during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Through proper investments, financial restructuring, support from the CARES Act and your willingness to reduce expenditures, we have and will continue to weather this storm.

As with air service, we are seeing slight increases in rental car revenue, food service and gift shop revenue, parking revenue and ground transportation. For example, at our lowest point in April, we showed a 2% parking occupancy rate. During the Fourth of July holiday weekend, we had a parking occupancy rate of 23%.

As you know, our financial situation is directly linked to how well our industry rebounds and when passengers return to air travel. At this time, we are seeing a slow passenger return and the airlines are planning for a slightly better fall schedule starting in October. Based on how well our airport continues to navigate the pandemic, we will continue to evaluate our financial situation throughout the year. Please be patient and we ask that you continue to refer to the updates we provide regarding our financial situation. It is hard to
predict where we will be in a few months, let alone next year, but we are working diligently to remain financially stable.

We will continue to face issues that we see coming and those that come out of nowhere. But our staff will rise to the challenge. I know we will continue to address any issues that arise with compassion, understanding and strength. It is an uncertain time in aviation, but I can assure you that we are taking the steps necessary to keep TYS safe, secure and stable. History has proven that air travel is a necessity. People will return to flying and we will be here when they are ready.

The role MKAA plays now is a crucial one. Passengers and guests need to feel safe and secure about traveling through TYS. They must have confidence in the work we do each day to keep our terminal building clean and safe. By wearing masks, reporting safety issues and encouraging social distancing, we are not only keeping our airport and employees safe, but we are also promoting the healthy travel environment we are maintaining for passengers and guests.  

May 29, 2020 Update - Over the Memorial Day weekend, TSA reported screening over 300,000 travelers, in a single day in the U.S,. for the first time since March 25. At TYS, we saw an uptick in passengers traveling for the holiday weekend and we are cautiously optimistic that we will continue to see a slow return to air travel.  

As part of MKAA’s healthy workplace efforts, we are asking employees to perform a health screening each day before coming to work. You should have received instructions from your supervisor on how to do this as well as an instruction sheet that describes the process. Here is a link to more information: https://public.3.basecamp.com/p/HZ5gJAng5r8nKrnWZKHqc145.

DKX Update

  • DKX is now open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Their Conference Room is available by request, with a maximum of three people.
  • The Pilot Lounge is open and available upon request – maximum of 1 party.
  • The DKX lobby is restricted to only customers and passengers with a maximum stay of 15 minutes. While in the lobby, customers will be reminded to practice social distancing. Customers wishing to stay longer will be directed to the Pilot Lounge or picnic tables outside the lobby.

May 15, 2020 Update - The MKAA COVID-19 Planning Team, composed of MKAA staff members from all departments, has completed their efforts on guidelines and operational requirements that will allow us to establish and maintain a healthy and safe workplace. The finished document has been approved by the leadership team and will be distributed to you next week by your supervisor. You will be given guidance on a multitude of work situations that will impact your daily duties and workspaces. These new requirements are being implemented for your safety.

One of the most important items in this packet is an employee health screening instruction sheet that describes a body temperature check that each of you will conduct before reporting to work each day. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor.

Concession Update: Ruby Tuesday is open for sit down dining. The rest of the concessionaires are continuing to operate under the same schedules.

May 1, 2020 Update- Several members of our staff have been serving on the MKAA Infectious Control Team for weeks now. They have reviewed material from the CDC, OSHA, as well as guidelines provided by federal, state and local governments; regional health departments; and federal agencies to determine their implications to the airport. Their goal is to create guidelines to enable to us to maintain healthy and safe workplace that is also compliant with all regulations.

The Infectious Control Team is compiling this information and will be sharing their guidelines soon. For those employees that will be transitioning back to work at the airport this month, the guidelines will be a helpful way to assist you in your transition from remote working. For those of you who have been working at the airport since March, the recommendations will be familiar to you.

Good news came from the FAA this week regarding the runway project. We received notice that we will be getting a grant that will allow us to complete the Runway 5L/23R project. Thank you to the Engineering Department, Operations Department and Airfield Maintenance for their hard work, strong planning and quick action on
this project.

The most recent episode of the airport’s podcast, From the Runway Up, is a discussion on the impacts that COVID-19 has had on TYS and the aviation industry in general. I would encourage you to listen to the podcast at FromTheRunwayUp.com, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or anywhere
you listen to podcast.

Governor Bill Lee’s Stay-At-Home order has been lifted, which relaxes some of the restrictions placed upon businesses serving food, including the airport. For TYS, this has impacted our food concessions. Ruby Tuesday has opened their dining room and will be open until the last outbound airplane leaves each day. The State has not allowed bar areas to reopen, however, they can now return to selling alcohol.  Paradies and HMS Host will continue with the same operating schedule. The Airport Hilton will continue to do take out orders.

Some of the airlines that operate at TYS have announced that they will be requiring passengers to wear face coverings when in the terminal and onboard their flight. Here is a list of dates of when this requirement goes into effect for each airline. The list is current as of today and could change.

Delta Air Lines – May 4th 
United Airlines – May 4th  
Frontier Airlines – May 8th 
American Airlines – May 11th 
Allegiant Airlines – They are not requiring passengers to wear mask at this point but are encouraging passengers to follow the CDC guidelines (which includes wearing masks).

April 24, 2020 Update - The MKAA Board of Commissioners’ meeting was held on April 22, 2020, electronically. We were able to record the meeting and have posted two audio files your review. The first is the President's Report on the current state of our operations and my appreciation of all your hard work. It is 6:30 minutes long. Please take a few moments to listen if you can.

The second audio file is an air service update by Jim Evans, Vice President of Marketing and Air Service Development. It is 9 minutes long, but it will give you a good understanding of what to expect in the coming months for flights and passenger traffic at TYS.

We will be conducting Open Enrollment starting Monday, April 27 and it will run until Friday, May 8, 2020. You will be receiving a packet of insurance information soon.  Be sure to read the memo in the packet for instructions on how the enrollment process will be performed. If you have any questions, please ask your supervisor or contact Alan Jones at (865) 342-3062 or Diane Hatmaker at (865) 342-3361.

To help Tennesseans forward during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Tennessee Department of Health and Human Services is increasing access to child care at no cost for Tennessee workers who are providing essential businesses or services. This child care is available through payment assistance with licensed child care agencies and through a partnership with Tennessee YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs. As I have indicated before, MKAA employees are considered essential employees and are eligible for this program. For more information, a flyer has been posted in your break room.

April 17, 2020 Update - A memo from Alan Jones, MKAA Director of Administration, has been emailed to you or will be posted in your break room. It is very important that you read this memo if you are covered under the MKAA insurance policy or have signed up for voluntary benefits through the airport. We will be conducting Open Enrollment from April 27 through May 8, 2020.

The Tennessee Department of Health is offering COVID-19 testing at no cost at the Blount County Health Department. It does not require a doctor’s order. They will be testing from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Monday through Friday at 301 McGhee Street in Maryville. For more information, please call (865) 983-4582 or visit www.tn.gov/health.

April 15, 2020 Update - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced yesterday via press release that McGhee Tyson Airport would receive $25,830,652 in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) while Downtown Island Airport (DKX) would receive $69,000.

According to the FAA press release, the CARES Act funding will support airport operations and replace lost revenue resulting from the decline of passenger traffic and reduction of airport business due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) public health emergency. The funds can be used for airport capital expenses, airport operating expenses including payroll and utilities, and
debt payments.

For a copy of the FAA press release, please visit https://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=24882.

April 10, 2020 Update - The Weekly Update was sent via email to you today. Supervisors, please post this in your break rooms.

Beginning on Thursday, April 8, 2020, cloth face masks were distributed to MKAA employees who work directly with the public during their day-to-day duties. More masks are coming and will be distributed as needed. Employees are encouraged to wear the provided masks when in public but to also continue to wash their hands often and practice the preventative guidelines provided by the CDC. Please remember that the cloth mask is very different from the N95 mask and that they protect others in public, not the wearer. The CDC has also provided guidelines on how to wear the cloth mask. Please visit their website for more detail and utilize the following guidelines:

Cloth face coverings should—

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Also remember:

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

April 3, 2020 Update - You will be receiving the Weekly Update from MKAA President, Patrick Wilson, today. It will be sent out by email and will be posted in your break room. In addition, you should have received an email yesterday containing information on what to do if you feel sick. The email also answers questions pertaining to the MKAA insurance plan for those employees who participate in the plan.

April 1, 2020 Update - The local media will run stories today discussing the estimated change in the number of flights and passengers we are expecting in April. Our estimations were included in the letter you received last Friday from Patrick Wilson, MKAA President. In case you missed it, here is our statement:

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has had a major impact on flights into and out of McGhee Tyson Airport since mid-March. Our staff has been in constant communication with the airlines that serve our market in an effort to support their operations and to determine daily flight estimations for April 2020. As of today, we anticipate that the number of scheduled flights from McGhee Tyson Airport in April will be down 50% and that passenger numbers will be down 85%. We also anticipate that we will see flight cancellations each day while the US complies with President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America and Tennesseans comply with Governor Bill Lee’s “Safe at Home” Executive Order. We are open and will continue to provide flights that support our nation’s critical functions such as essential travel, medical transportation, supply delivery, and cargo operations.

Remember that we are updating the Frequently Asked Questions below when new information becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) and Downtown Island Airport (DKX) open? Both TYS and DKX are open and operating. The “Safer at Home Order” issued by the Knox County Health Department does not include air transportation or airports. Even as passenger traffic and general aviation slow, our work continues to be critical to the region. Air transportation, and your contribution to the airport, enables our community to continue to receive necessary supplies; transport people and resources; as well as provide support to the airlines and tenants with issue like aircraft parking.  We are continuing to provide this service while also prioritizing the health and safety of airport employees.

2. Where can I find more information about the coronavirus and its impact on operations at TYS and DKX?  For operational information on TYS and DKX, you can visit this website. It will be updated when new information becomes available.  You are also encouraged to visit the Knox County Health Department , State of Tennessee Health Department or the CDC (for impact on travel as well)  for current updates on the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

3. What extra precautions are being taken? We will continue to comply with CDC prevention guidelines and has taken the following measures to supplement our established cold and flu season cleaning efforts:

At TYS:

  • Restrooms are cleaned hourly with multipurpose cleaner, degreaser and sanitizer.
  • No contact vapor sterilizers are used daily with hospital grade disinfectant.
  • Hand sanitizer is in all airport restrooms, employee break rooms and copy rooms.
  • We have increased cleaning of highly used areas of the terminal building where passengers and guests congregate.
  • We have altered employee work schedules and workspaces.
  • We have restricted in-person meetings while encouraging online meeting, phone calls or electronic communication.
  • We are practicing safe social distancing (at least 6 ft).

At DKX:

  • We are restricting the lobby to employees and customers for operational needs only.
  • No more than 2 customers can be in the lobby at one time.
  • Crew cars are available by limited reservation only.
  • The conference room is closed.
  • We have altered employee work schedules and hours of operation.
  • Portable restrooms and self-service fuel is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

4.  What precautions should employees be taking? The best precautions you can take are simple, but they are important and effective:

 *   Wash your hands regularly
 *   Stay home if you are sick
 *   Avoid contact with those who are sick
 *   Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze/cough
 *   Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
 *   Get a flu shot if you haven’t already

5. Where can I share a suggestion on how to keep people at TYS or DKX healthy and informed? The CDC and other agencies have produced an enormous number of measures and actions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These steps include education, hand washing, hand sanitizing, avoiding close contact, staying at home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, wearing masks if sick, cleaning and disinfecting. Every staff member is asked to provide input with your thoughts, ideas, or specific measures that we can or would like to implement in order to protect ourselves here at TYS and DKX. Please share your suggestions with Jennifer Giffin at Jennifer.Giffin@tys.org or by calling (865) 342-3025.

6. While we are financially sound at this time, where do I share a suggestion or ask a questions about conserving our resources or cutting expenses?   Each department, work center and individual staff members are asked to exercise caution and good judgement in controlling, deferring, or postponing any in discretionary spending that is not absolutely necessary for operational continuity. This is an effort to decrease operating costs at TYS and DKX throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Doug Hill has been appointed as the primary staff member, or contact to collect information about any cost savings, or cost deferral action including actual cost, description of the purchase, contract or expense, etc. He can be reached at Doug.Hill@tys.org or by calling (865) 3119.

7. It is clear we are having to purchase items related to the COVID-19 pandemic that we were not anticipating. How are we keeping track of those expenses? It has become recently evident that we will be undertaking some extraordinary expenses to cope with the COVID-19 Pandemic that are above and beyond our normal expenses. Some examples of this would be the funds we are expending to purchase additional hand sanitizer.  We must carefully account for any of the expenses we incur to cope with a COVID-19 pandemic. Please report any expenditure associated with COVID-19 to Ken Eckert.  He can be reached at Ken.Eckert@tys.org or by calling (865) 342-3120.

8.  Are airport restaurants open? In compliance with Governor Bill Lee’s executive order to suspend in-person dining and due to a decrease in customer demand, airport concessionaires are offering carry-out food only, with a limited menu. They have reduced their hours of operation or closed temporarily. Food concessions are available each day from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. with snacks available at the Paradies concourse location until 8 p.m.  Paradies' pre-security location is closed today for restocking but its concourse location will be officially opened today. Starbucks will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. only. Please follow social distancing guidelines while waiting to pick up orders.

9. What does the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) mean to our airport?  Airports and airlines are in great need for financial relief and we hope the legislation will provide that support. We are reviewing its potential impacts on our airports and will be updating you soon. Please check back to this webpage for the update.

10. If I have a question, who do I contact? You are encouraged to contact your supervisor with any questions you may have. You may also email questions to info@tys.org.