MEM Passenger Totals Continue to Freefall

By Bill Dries

Monthly passenger totals for March at Memphis International Airport continued to reflect the approximately 20-percent cut in regional service by Delta Air Lines Inc. that began last summer.

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board of commissioners released numbers that reflect those cuts at its Thursday, April 19, meeting.

There were 187 scheduled flights at Memphis International in March, compared to 245 in March 2011, a 23.6 percent drop. There were 177 scheduled flights in February.

The 649,121 passengers in March were 22.7 percent fewer than the 839,334 passengers a year ago. But the March numbers were up from the 533,474 passengers in February.

For the calendar year, the passenger count is down 20.2 percent compared to 2011 through the end of March. For the fiscal year, the percentage drop is 18 percent compared to this point in the previous fiscal year.

Meanwhile, cargo numbers at the airport, which is home to FedEx Corp.’s largest hub, were up slightly in March from last year at 787.7 million pounds, a nearly 2 percent increase from March 2011.

The calendar year so far shows 2.1 billion pounds of cargo handled, a 3.3 percent increase from the same time last year. For the fiscal year so far, the 6.5 billion pounds of cargo since July 1 is a 1.2 percent increase over the previous fiscal year at this point.

In other news from Thursday’s meeting, the board has a new 10-year, $89,000 contract agreement with the Tennessee Air National Guard, the airport property’s longest-running major tenant. The airport authority board approved the contract, retroactive to 2010.

The board also extended on a month-to-month basis a contract with RPS of Memphis for shuttle bus services to the airport terminal. The amendment is in anticipation of the airport’s new ground transportation center opening in the fall, which will ultimately eliminate the need for much if not all of the shuttle traffic.

Airport authority president and CEO Larry Cox said the contract, which requires a 90-day notice to end, will cover the transition of passengers once the parking area is fully opened. It will also move rental car facilities closer to the terminal.