Saturday, July 25, 2009
Nashville airport may add kennel, clinic
Plan aims to boost slumping revenues By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • July 25, 2009 A luxury kennel for pets and a health clinic where you could get prescriptions, immunizations and even a physical could be on the way for the nearly 10 million travelers who pass through the Nashville airport each year. The airport, struggling with the recession's bite out of air travel, already has added several restaurants and businesses as part of a renovation that began in 2006. Now it has asked businesses to submit proposals for a pet boarding business and a health clinic as a way to generate more revenue and create more traveler services. At least a dozen airports across the country already have health clinics, and another handful have upscale kennels for pets with suites and massages for furry friends. One company has started an airline just for pets, Pet Airways, though it is not yet serving Nashville. Part of the motivation for airport officials is the need to increase revenue lost because of a drop in air travel. "We're always looking at new ways to offer service to airport passengers," said Emily Richard, airport spokeswoman. "We have 4,500 acres of land at the airport. We have plenty of space for revenue opportunities." In June, parking fees were down 12 percent from the same month a year ago, while car rental revenue dropped 15 percent. Total passenger count was off 4.9 percent compared with last year, but it showed improvement over slower months earlier in the year. Health-care clinics have caught on in popularity in the past two years because passengers have time on their hands after arriving earlier to deal with security measures. Walk-in clinics or pharmacies already operate in airports in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Dallas and Baltimore. Most of them are operated by either New York-based Harmony Pharmacy and Health Center or Aeroclinic of Atlanta, though a few other companies are getting in on the service. San Francisco International Airport added a Harmony Pharmacy two months ago where people can refill prescriptions before boarding flights. Or if they forget a prescription, they can have their doctor call one in. The airport had a walk-in health clinic well ahead of other airports — about 30 years ago. "There was a Dr. Larry Smookler who envisioned 30 years ago a one-stop shop for travelers," said Mike McCarron, spokesman for the San Francisco airport. "It's fully staffed, people can get physicals, sutures and minor surgery." At the Nashville airport last week, Nolensville resident Brian Snyder said the pet hotel and health-care clinic were good in theory, but he wasn't sure he would use either service. He leaves his 55-pound dog at home with his wife or would choose one of the four kennels he passes on his way to the airport. "Such a service (at the airport) might very well be helpful to some pet owners," said CogiSmeeton, guest services manager for an 18-acre pet boarding facility at The Farm at Natchez Trace. But she doubted that such a service would compete with hers because of the extensive services she offers. Snyder, who flies out of Nashville International at least once a month for business, said the clinic sounded convenient, but he wondered if most health insurance would be accepted at an airport clinic or if prices would be inflated. The airport has not gotten responses to its request for proposals for the pet kennel, and airport officials have not decided whether to advertise the idea again, Richard said. Still accepting proposals The airport is still accepting proposals on the health clinic. Some of the requirements would be that the vendor must be open year-round and operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Services would include immunizations, urgent care, occupational health, employee physicals and prescription and non-prescription medications. Also, the provider would have to accept Medicare, Medicaid and TennCare. The clinic would be in an 832-square-foot space on the ticketing level of the concourse connector. Raul Regalado, president and chief executive of Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, said neither of the ideas is a done deal. It depends on what happens when the issue of financing is brought to the table, he added. "We want to make sure it is a viable option, not just an interesting one."
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