A message from Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority’s Chairman, Jack Sammons

September 4th, 2013   •   10 comments   

image003 This week, Delta Airlines announced further cuts in flights at Memphis International Airport and thereby “de-hubbing” Memphis leaving our Airport Authority and regional passengers hoping for friendlier skies ahead. I have written a lot about this topic over the past few years and feel strongly that vibrant cities with robust economies have strong airports and air services to their respective markets. For Memphis to remain a competitive city, capitalizing on key economic development opportunities and attracting talent and young people, we must have more choices and more airlines serving Memphis. Jack Sammons, recently appointed to lead our MSCAA’s Board is working diligently—and doing the best he can to stay positive—to court other carriers and demonstrate the willingness of the community to support them.

Here is a message from Jack I thought I’d share here… Please get on board with promoting both Southern Airways (a client of mine) and Southwest Airlines (a huge opportunity for us).

“Our short term mission at the Airport Authority is simple – the relentless pursuit of frequent and affordable air service.  Our air cargo business continues to be robust thanks to our partners at FedEx. Unlike most of the cities in America that have been “de-hubbed” by the legacy airlines, we have the luxury of a world-class partner across Winchester Road that helps us fund our passenger operation while we seek other carriers. Adding new service from airlines other than Delta is not an easy task in the current environment of passenger airlines reducing service in the domestic market. There are actually 15% fewer airline seats available for sale in the domestic market today than were available before September 11, 2001. US Airlines are chasing the higher margin flights in the international market and contracting service here at home.Sammons-2013-image

I spend a huge amount of my time courting any airline that may be a prospect to serve MEM. I expect Southwest (SWA) to continue to grow their operation here but only if business flyers in particular support them. Look for SWA to incrementally grow their business here. So far, they are very pleased with the enthusiastic support flyers here have given them on their direct flights to Baltimore/Washington, Chicago Midway and Orlando. Delta is reducing their service by 30 flights a day on September 3rd. Southwest won’t provide us with an overnight replacement of those flights but as I mentioned I do expect them to increase their activity over time. Another point to recognize is that SWA flies a Boeing 737 that seats 143 passengers which is nearly three times the size of a 50 seat CRJ regional jet typically flown by our friends at Pinnacle Airlines for Delta. In the future, the metric to watch will not be the number of flights per day but the number of seats available per day.

September 3rd will mark the day that our Hub status with Delta concludes. The future of air travel in Memphis will be a mosaic of many more airline choices operating competitively in this market, which will result in more affordable fares. As that happens, our friends and family will discontinue their adventures along the most dangerous highway in America – Interstate 40 to Little Rock to save money on airfare. I’m continually working on providing our travelers more options. Options like Southern Airways are an important part of our product mix. Their planes are comfortable, convenient and fun to fly.

Like any business that loses a big customer, we’ve got to take extra special care of the ones we still have. FedEx employees are united behind their “Purple Promise” to make every FedEx experience outstanding. I don’t need to hire a fancy business consultant to tell us that’s a standard we should strive for at MEM. It’s my goal to make our passenger’s experience from the parking garage to the departure gate outstanding every time. Our new airport parking facility costs only $6 per day and provides moving sidewalks all the way into the airport. That affordable price in our modern garage, along with moving the rental car companies from Democrat Road to that facility, have made it very popular with our customers. Free Internet service is being installed throughout the terminal now. TSA’s Pre-Check lane is up and running which allows qualified flyers to leave their shoes on, leave their laptops in their bags and walk through a simple metal detector much like the ones you see in a courthouse. You can qualify for this service by signing up for the Global Entry Card. See “Global Entry” to learn more about it. I just returned from a trip to Spain and was able to avoid a massive Customs line in Atlanta’s airport because of my GOES status. This card costs $100 and is good for five years. More and more airports are adding the TSA Pre-Check, which you get automatically when you are approved for Global Entry.

These are challenging times at the Memphis International Airport. It won’t happen overnight but our situation will continue to improve over time.”

All the best,

Jack

 

10 comments

  1. Molly says:

    Well said. We need to deal with the situation and not mourn for what was. Let’s support the airlines we still have.

  2. Amy Howell says:

    Thank you Molly! And let’s get some new ones in here! If there is 1 thing we could do for our community a city-wide (heck, regional) effort to get our airport national interest and flights would be the single best thing we could do. Also, we are going to need a plan and strategy for best use of empty airport terminal soon. We should look at what other cities have done with their facilities and see what kind of “out of the box” thinking we can produce. I’m sort of kidding but I have always wanted to roller blade in the airport. I know that’s not practical but that is the kind of brainstorming we need to do. I think other cities have conducted best use facility studies…

  3. Great work by Jack and others at MSCAA. I think this falls into the category of something we take for granted until it is gone… and we see how difficult it is to recruit, retain and do business without the needed transportation. Similar to the lobby of a warm and friendly office, the airport is a first and last impression to those traveling to and from our City and we want to thank Jack and MSCAA for making that a reality. I am confident that this will also translate into the additional airlines and added competition for air travelers that he refers to in his post.

    Steve Fracchia
    Southeastern Asset Management

  4. Amy Howell says:

    Steve: Thank you for taking time to read and comment. Agree 100% with your comments!

  5. This morning I am looking for 4 Memphis to Vegas air tickets in October for our staff to attend ISPA Conference. Seems the immediate translation for Memphis fares is that they shot up $150 – to $200 each just since this big announcement. on ALL carriers and no non-stops

    Yes, Memphis business is going to be challenged and will be resilient. It’s such a shame outside of Memphis business’ can’t do business here because of the airport transportation.

    However, we must remain confident that MSCAA and Jack Sammons, the new guard, are doing their best to re-weave an attraction for airline carriers to set up shop in Memphis with real regional partnerships.

    Your blog post is the first positive news of any traction for better airport transportation for our REGION (remember it is a REGIONAL problem), thanks Amy!

  6. Amy Howell says:

    Mona: That means a lot coming from you who worked in the airline industry before starting Mona Spa. Any business or business owner knows the importance of moving people in and out of our region. The airport is one of–if not THE–most important economic drivers. The only reason we should look back is to learn some lessons so we don’t repeat them. I am glad we have new leadership at MSCAA but it is going to take our whole community to get behind these other airlines…that means our wallets! We must book on these other flights and show SWA–in particular–that we are a good market. Unfortunately Memphis has been forced to fly out of Nashville or Little Rock so it will be hard to combat that. Thanks for commenting and keep up the good fight!

  7. Bill Carrier says:

    Thanks – for the work! I’ve got family near Panama City, so we’ll be using both Southern and Southwest in the future. Also, thank you, Jack Sammons, for clearing the way at Memphis Intern’l for the recent TV pilot – that created work for Memphians in the film business.

  8. Amy Howell says:

    Thank you Bill for taking time to read & comment. Good points!

  9. Jack Sammons says:

    Thanks Amy, I appreciate the opportunity to communicate with the flying public in our region. I solicit and appreciate their input. The Airport is key to our success in economic development. We all have a stake in this effort. I’m determined to bring frequent affordable air service to MEM. Better days are ahead. Thanks!
    Jack

  10. Amy Howell says:

    Jack, glad to have the conversation going and definitely glad you are leading MSCAA. I think you have more support than you realize and thank you for all the great work! We all have to get behind it! Thanks for commenting here.

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