Let’s Get Memphis Airborne

May 15th, 2012   •   17 comments   

Mike…Echo…Mike…Papa…Hotel…India…Sierra, We need choices and we need Memphis to fly as many people in and out as we do packages. No disrespect to our wonderful jewel FedEx but we must get airline options and more choices to our Memphis International Airport. This week I was added—without consent—to a Facebook “group” bashing Delta Airlines and talking negatively about our situation. I am strongly against this and have removed myself from the group. In my opinion, a better strategy is to talk about what we could and should have here in Memphis. Bashing Delta is not constructive and it is frankly bad PR for our city, and we all certainly know we don’t need more of that.

Currently, we have high fares and limited choices for a city our size and for our optimal geographic location (we are truly well centered and should be capitalizing on this in more ways). As a result, many Memphians are going to Nashville and Little Rock to fly on vacations, business, family trips, etc. Recently, I have been talking with clients and business owners who have expressed great dissatisfaction over having to either cough up the money to fly from Memphis or be inconvenienced by adding Arkansas to their travel itinerary. Furthermore, businesses are starting to mumble about moving or looking at other cities for expansion of offices. I talked with one business owner considering moving his sales force to Atlanta or Nashville. REALLY? YES. We cannot afford this as a city. Our airport must be a passenger hub as well as a cargo hub. I have heard rumors that politicians in Tennessee from the past have made deals with Northwest and Delta to keep other airlines out. Oh, if the walls could talk, I’m sure we’d learn a lot. But what matters now is moving our community forward and that means economic development. We cannot have any economic development progress if we cannot get more flight choices and competitive pricing. PERIOD.

Where is our creative thinking? Can’t we get some smaller planes servicing the gulf coast direct from Memphis? Where have all the cowboys gone? If Bobby Cox were still alive, I guarantee you he’d be calling Mayor Wharton and Larry Cox every single day until we had some results. I have been told that this issue is “complex” and that an announcement is forthcoming. Rumor on the street is Southwest Airlines is going to announce flights to a few cities such as Chicago, Boston and Dulles. We’ll see and if this is true and at least that is a start. I have also been told that we have to be careful not to upset Delta. WHAT? Delta has too much control over Memphis and that stifles our ability to be competitive. Memphians should have choices and quality. Our city has too many great things to offer. In an interview with our new University of Memphis head football coach, Justin Fuente told me these words: “One of my first thoughts about Memphis is that it has so much to offer that nobody even knows about.” We have a story to tell and we can’t sell it if people can’t get here. Let’s get Memphis Airborne! #MEMfly

17 comments

  1. Alys Drake says:

    Thank you Amy for your leadership on this issue. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I did remain a member of the Facebook group, mainly to watch what is said. I completely understand the frustration and am happy people have a place to vent. However, we must be constructive, and not only critical. Kudos to you!

  2. Dan Barron says:

    Well said Amy!

  3. Amy Howell says:

    Thank you, Dan and Alys. I appreciate the support. Feel free to share this post with anyone else that you see fit.

  4. Tom Jones says:

    Amy, it appears that you were added by a friend who thought you would be interested in helping customers speak out. I’ll let your friend know that you don’t want to be added without your consent, but as a social media guru, you know this happens sometimes and it’s easy to correct. I’ll be on the watch to make sure no one else invites or adds you.

  5. Amy Howell says:

    Tom: Thanks but that’s what’s not good about an open group. The numbers are gamed if people add people. Better for family reunions. I am more interested in focusing forward and being positive where we can. Thx for comment

  6. Amy Howell says:

    So if your comment is not posted here’s why: This is my blog. I monitor my brand. If your comment is constructive yet respectful, I will post and address here. If however I see your comment as snarky, mean, dumb or just plain stupid? Not going here. So for y’all who aren’t here? Revise your comment accordingly and I will consider. Thank you!

  7. Lee Mills says:

    Where was all the outrage when Northwest was here? Sure, they offered a few more flights but they proved that didn’t work, the flights where empty and they lost money and ended up bankrupt. Delta has “right sized” the flight schedule and planes. This is business. They are attempting to avoid the mistakes of Northwest.

    I don’t understand why people continually bash Delta for doing what every airline in the world does. Want to fly to Memphis out of Chicago? Buy a ticket on United and it will be say, $600. But a ticket out of South Bend to Memphis through Chicago, $295. All you have to do is hop on a train over to South Bend and boom, you save $305.

    I do not condone what’s happening, I just think we need to quit bashing Delta and if we must bash…bash the industry. Or, better yet, quit bashing altogether and make Memphis a place where folks actually want to visit. If more folks want to come, the fares will drop. Supply and demand works.

  8. Amy Howell says:

    Lee: Excellent points. Ones that should have been made long ago. Amazing that community rallying can create great conversations! The power of social and digital is this case study. What do you think about the MSCAA’s meeting this morning and the 1 million dollar incentive? Thanks for the comment and for the supportive points about Memphis. We have a ton to offer–my Twitter friends who come from Philly, NYC, Atlanta, Texas…love Memphis. They say our city has soul and they love our downtown. That’s what we need to shout from the rooftops! Thanks, Amy

  9. Tom Jones says:

    Thanks, Amy.

    We are being positive. We are positive that citizens should speak up, call for change, and be willing to be part of finding broader solutions that bring forth long-term solutions. Delta Does Memphis includes grassroots folks, filmmakers, CEOs, heads of nonprofit organizations, and a cross-section of leaders who are deeply concerned about the economic consequences of the high airfares and are discussing what can be done for Memphis to consider scenarios for the future.

    When I was asked what motivates the group, my response to a reporter was that “Memphis is worth fighting for.” This is a crucial time for Memphis, and as Mayor Wharton as said, we don’t have a margin for error. There are signs that our economy is improving, but for it to sustain, it will need to be propelled by forces that allow us to be more competitive, and airfare is chief among them.

    Our leadership needs to be visiting with Cincinnati officials whose airport was decimated by Delta and all while it was saying that it was committed to the city and leaders should be visiting Nashville whose airport proved that there can be an even better competition if a hub leaves. We need to be preparing for whatever it is to come, we need to do some serious scenario planning, and that’s what the group is all about. Because I didn’t want anyone to feel that it was being controlled, or censored, I chose for it to be more of a movement and that’s why I set it up the way I did. It seems to be paying off because I am unaware of any other campaign of this sort that has rallied as much interest and active commenting.

    Also, much of what I have learned about these sorts of things has come from reading your commentaries over the years, so thanks for that. Thanks for your conversation here about all this as well.

  10. Amy Howell says:

    Tom: glad you are fighting for our city. Heaven knows we need all the help we can get.

  11. Ed Horrell says:

    Amy-This is good dialog. What is taking place at the airport right now is going to be critical to the future of this city. I have reached a point where, as a business traveler, I prefer to drive whenever I can. As a consumer advocate, I am also outspoken regarding the poor service air travelers receive these days. That said, air travel cannot be ignored or eliminated.

    I appreciate your comments and look forward to more.

  12. Kiersten Bagley says:

    I agree with Ed. Nice post and forum here. The ultimate goal should be for Memphians to come together to rally for fair fares and competition and you catch more flies with honey, as they say. It’s an important issue that needs to be addressed and talked about… #MemFly!

  13. Amy Howell says:

    Kiersten: thanks! As a up and comer, you are the future. Great to see young professionals engaging here! Ed: thank you & I agree. The key issue is that we need clarity on our city’s mission & vision for our airport. We have serious problems and we must fix them. We have to put political agendas & egos aside and do the right things to promote economic development for Memphis. Moving people in and out is key. And we need to tell all the great stories we have here in Memphis to attract people to our town.

  14. Bonita Elam says:

    Great insight, Amy. The current system needs some modification. My family vacation planning has changed dramatically. We rent cars everywhere we go and I even have frequent renter points from our local rental place! I would rather drive 10 hours than pay the current rates for myself, husband and three girls.

  15. Amy Howell says:

    Bonita: thanks for stopping by! I feel the pain too! I find myself flying by way of Little Rock. My hope is that we can get more choices here in Memphis! We have so much to offer!

  16. Tracy Lindow says:

    As a Memphian living overseas, I am appalled at the lack of options to get me home for a visit! There are NO flights from anywhere in Europe into Memphis. So, not only is the cost outrageous to fly home, but the options are absurd, with multiple plane changes due to the cancellation of the Memphis to Amsterdam route by Delta. I thought we were trying to be a global city!

  17. Amy Howell says:

    Thank you Tracy! Our future depends on youth. Thanks for weighing in!

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