A Guide to Airports in Tennessee

Nashville Airport

 Mx. Granger/Wikimedia Commons 

Tennessee has five commercial airports spread throughout the state, ranging from the bustling Nashville International Airport to the tiny Tri-Cities Airport. All five are spread out throughout the state, making it easy to get to your final destination, no matter where it is.

Nashville International Airport (BNA)

  • Location: Southeast Nashville
  • Pros: Has the largest variety of routes of Tennessee's airports
  • Cons: Limited international routes
  • Distance to Downtown Nashville: The airport is 8 miles from Downtown Nashville and can be reached by car or public bus.

At the busiest of Tennessee's airports, 17 airlines operate some 500 daily flights for more than 12 million passengers a year. Airlines include Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, American Airlines, United, and Spirit. a majority of the route are to domestic destinations but there is service to London, England; Toronto, Canada; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Cancun, Mexico.

Ground transportation options run the usual gamut from rental cars to taxis and limo services to ride-shares with Lyft or Uber. Many downtown hotels offer complimentary shuttle service, and both private and public buses transport passengers as well. The airport is located about 15 minutes from both downtown Nashville and Opryland. Taxis run from the airport to both areas for a flat rate.

The airport's concessions program gives visitors a taste of Nashville right at the airport, with many long-time Music City favorites represented. Unlike at many airports, of-age travelers can enjoy an adult beverage anywhere in the secure terminal areas instead of being confined to the bars. (It's akin to the open-container law that you'll find downtown.) There is free Wi-Fi available throughout the airport.

Fitting its host city's nickname, Nashville International Airport greets visitors with art and music through the innovative Arts at the Airport program. Live music performances take place at six locations around the terminals, with more than 700 performances across music genres each year. Rotating visual art exhibits join permanent collections for easy viewing of works by some of the state's most acclaimed artists.

Memphis International Airport (MEM)

  • Location: Southeast Memphis
  • Pros: Substantial domestic flights for a relatively small airport
  • Cons: Limited international flights
  • Distance to Downtown Memphis: The airport is around 10 miles from downtown and it take roughly 15 minutes to drive.

Located just 10 miles from downtown Memphis, the Memphis International Airport offers flights operated by Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier Airlines, Southwest, and United, among other regional airlines.

Travelers departing from Memphis can find plenty of parking in the easily-accessible economy and long-term lots, with charging stations for electric vehicles and designated spaces for oversize RVs, trailers, and large vans. Arriving travelers can pick up rental cars from any of the major car rental agencies at the Ground Transportation Center, or hire a taxi or limo service outside of the Concourse B baggage claim area.

Ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft meet passengers outside of the A, B, and C ticketing lobby exits on the outer commercial drive. Some hotels offer complimentary shuttles for guests, and you can also take a public bus into downtown Memphis but the ride can take as long as 90 minutes if traffic is bad.

The airport's Blue Suede Service is a volunteer group of local retirees who answer passenger questions regarding gates, directions to baggage claim and ground transportation, restroom locations, types of restaurants, etc. You can easily spot them in their navy blue vests, white shirts, and khaki pants. Look for the clipboard with the Blue Suede Service logo.

There are a variety of fast-casual and bar and grill-style restaurants serving sit-down and to-go meals. You can also access free Wi-Fi throughout the terminals.

McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS)

  • Location: Alcoa
  • Pros: Never crowded
  • Cons: Limited flights
  • Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The airport is around 40 miles from the national park and it takes 75 minutes to get there.

McGhee Tyson Airport serves the Knoxville metro area from the town of Alcoa, approximately 12 miles south of the city. Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, and United operate flights year-round. With 120 daily flights, about 20 of which are nonstop, the airport accommodates more than two million passengers a year.

Several chain restaurants provide travelers with a choice of full-service dining or grab-and-go meals, while two marketplace-style stores sell snacks, beverages, and travel sundries. The airport provides free Wi-Fi.

The long-term lot has covered parking spaces, but the airport does not operate shuttles to the terminal, which is about a 10- to 15-minute walk away.

Arriving passengers can rent a car, utilize rideshare services, or find a taxi or limo to downtown. Some hotels near the airport provide complimentary guest shuttles, but otherwise, there aren't any public transportation options. This is the closest airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so many people rent cars to drive there.

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA)

  • Location: East Chattanooga
  • Pros: Extremely short flight to Atlanta, making connections to destinations around the world easy
  • Cons: Limited flights, but security lines can be unusually long for such a small airport
  • Distance to Downtown Chattanooga: Around 10 miles, driving takes approximately 20 minutes.

About a 10-mile drive west of downtown Chattanooga, this small airport, also known as Lovell Field, offers nonstop flights to and from a handful of destinations on the eastern half of the country. Delta operates shuttle flights to Atlanta—with a gate-to-gate time of about 50 minutes—from which travelers can catch flights to destinations around the world. United, American Airlines, and Allegiant also operate flights.

One restaurant beyond the security checkpoint serves breakfast until 10:30 a.m., followed by a robust lunch and dinner menu of burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and Mexican dishes. You can access free Wi-Fi throughout the terminal.

There is both short-term and long-term parking in close proximity to the terminal, with a charging station for electric vehicles. Many of the major car rental agencies operate desks at the airport, and ground transportation options include the rideshare companies as well as the usual taxis, limo services, and shuttle buses.

The airport's terminal was the first in the world to earn a LEED Platinum rating—an on-site solar farm supplies 100 percent of the airport's energy requirements.

Tri-Cities Airport

  • Location: Blountville
  • Pros: Very convenient for anyone living in the Tri-Cities region
  • Cons: Not near any major tourist attractions
  • Distance to Kingsport: The airport is 14 miles (a 20-minute drive) from Kingsport

Tri-Cities Airport, located 3 miles off Interstate 81 at exit 63 in Blountville, serves several counties in northeastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, and southeastern Kentucky.

Tri-Cities Airport offers nonstop service to four hubs: Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Orlando. Flights are operated by Delta, American Airlines, and Allegiant. Allegiant also has a seasonal route to St. Pete-Clearwater, Florida.

There are both long- and short-term parking lots located directly across from the terminal, and the major car rental companies operate desks in the arrivals area. A free cell phone waiting lot makes it easy to meet someone on an incoming flight.

One combination restaurant, bar, and gift shop remains open from the earliest departure until the last incoming flight of the day lands. The business center inside the security checkpoint provides travelers with a bird's-eye view of the terminal—and a quiet and comfortable place to get some work done while waiting for a flight.

Article Sources
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  1. The Tennessean. "Nashville airport loosens rules on carrying booze." Published May 30, 2014. Retrieved Jan 18, 2021.

  2. Visit Music City. "Nashville International Airport | Visit Nashville TN." Retrieved Jan 18, 2021.

  3. Visit Knoxville. "McGhee Tyson Airport." Retrieved Jan 18, 2021.

  4. Solar Power World Online. "Chattanooga Airport now 100% powered by on-site solar energy." Published June 20, 2019. Retrieved Jan 18, 2021.