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: It has the largest variety of routes of Tennessee's airports
  • Cons: Limited international routes
  • Distance to Downtown Nashville: A flat-rate taxi to Downtown Nashville costs $25 and takes just under 15 minutes. There's a public bus that costs $1.70 and takes anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes.

At the busiest of Tennessee's airports, 15 airlines operate some 460 daily flights for more than 16 million passengers a year. With the addition of a British Airways nonstop flight to London in May of 2018, Nashville became an international airport again after more than two decades. It also services Canada, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Jamaica.

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 on a flat fee.

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.

Look for the Flying Aces in bright red vests or blazers if you have a question while traveling through the airport. This group of volunteers is deployed throughout the terminals on a daily basis to assist passengers.

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 (Toronto and Cancun)
  • Distance to Downtown Memphis: A 15-minute taxi to downtown Memphis costs about $25. A shuttle bus connects the airport to the main transit hubs, from which you can catch a public bus to downtown Memphis. The price is under $5, but the ride can take upwards of 90 minutes.

Located just nine miles from downtown Memphis, the Memphis International Airport sees more than 2 million passengers annually. Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier Airlines, Southwest, and United all operate flights into and out of the Memphis airport, among other regional airlines. (Fun fact: it's the second busiest cargo airport in the world, just behind Hong Kong.)

Travelers departing from Memphis 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-share 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.

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.

You can get something to eat at the Memphis airport beginning at 5 a.m. at 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 Downtown Knoxville: A 20-minute taxi will cost about $35. There are no public transportation options.

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 130 daily flights, about 20 of which are nonstop, the airport accommodates more than 2 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 hire 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 Smokey 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: A 20-minute taxi will cost about $30. There are no public transportation options.

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 U.S. Delta operates shuttle flights to Atlanta—the flight time is about 18 minutes—from which travelers can catch flights to destinations around the world.

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 provides about 85 percent of the airport's energy requirements. The Airport Authority intends for the facility to eventually be energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral.

Tri-Cities Airport

  • Location: Blountville
  • Pros: Very convenient to anyone living in the Tri-Cities region
  • Cons: Not near any major tourist attractions
  • Distance to Kingsport: A 20-minute taxi will cost about $30. There are no public transportation options.

Tri-Cities Airport, located three 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, meaning that with just one connection, you can get to many places throughout the U.S. and even around the world from this small airport.

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.

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