The Charleston County Airport District’s outstanding revenue bonds were upgraded last week to A1 from A2 by Moody’s Investors Service despite a negative outlook on the airport sector, which the agency expects to maintain through early 2010. The airport has $13.3 million of rated debt outstanding.

The upgrade demonstrates the district’s financial position, “which has been maintained and strengthened even through the national recession,” Moody’s analysts s reported. The upgrade also reflects continued stability of operations and expenditures with the re-signing of a joint-use agreement giving the district use of the U.S. Air Force-owned airfield at Charleston International Airport through 2058.

Moody’s placed a positive outlook on the Charleston airport credit in 2006.

Debt-service coverage has averaged more than six times over the past five fiscal years and the airport has more than 1,000 days’ cash on hand, Moody’s said. No new-money debt is planned for the next three years.

Airport traffic was down 8% in the first eight months of 2009 compared with last year, Moody’s said, but that decline is less than the 8.5% drop for airports nationally. However, enplanement levels will be affected negatively later this year when Air Tran ceases operations in December. Air Tran had increased enplanements to a high of 120,000 in fiscal 2008, or 9.9% of overall 2008 enplanements, Moody’s said.

Standard & Poor’s revised its outlook for the airport to positive in April and affirmed an A-minus rating on the airport’s 2004 revenue refunding bonds. There are no ratings from Fitch Ratings.

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