Airport Officials Hopeful for Strong Holiday Season


Though passenger activity at Memphis International Airport again dropped in October, officials are hopeful for a strong end to the year and beginning to 2013.

Their optimism is buoyed by the coming holiday travel, encouraging news of a Delta Air Lines Inc. airfare sale that runs through early December and the upcoming opening of the new $90 million ground transportation center.

“October was a very good month, and we are looking forward to our high-activity peak month of December,” Forrest Artz, the airport’s director of finance and chief financial officer, said at the Thursday, Nov. 15, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board of commissioners meeting.

Domestic enplaned and deplaned passenger counts – those passengers boarding a flight or leaving a flight at Memphis International Airport – dropped 26.7 percent in October compared to October 2011, and the overall total for the year to date has decreased 23.7 percent from the same time period in 2011.

For the year to date, total enplanements are roughly 1.1 million passengers versus 1.44 million enplanements for the same time in 2011.

The number of regional and commuter daily scheduled flights at Memphis International in October totaled 156, down from 202 in October 2011. The 156 flights carried 517,883 passengers.

The number of daily scheduled flights on peak days by the major air carriers in October was 37, down from 39 in September and 44 flights in July.

Delta’s enplaned and deplaned international passenger counts went from 172 and 200 in September, respectively, to 5,947 and 7,191 in October. Jazz Air LP remains now the airport’s dominant regional international carrier with 2,090 enplaned and 2,116 deplaned in October.

Airport officials now look to a Delta sale to boost passenger numbers at the airport. This week Delta announced a sale that runs through Dec. 5 on airfares to 10 destinations across the country, including Charlotte, N.C., Orlando, Fla., New York City, Los Angeles, Denver and others.

Once again, cargo was a bright spot for the airport.

In October, Memphis International handled numbers equaled 772.2 million pounds of cargo compared to 737.5 million pounds in October 2011 for an increase of 3.34 percent.

Year to date, cargo numbers have increased 3 percent, jumping to 7.32 trillion pounds versus 7.1 trillion pounds through the second quarter of 2011.

In other activity at the monthly board meeting, commissioners approved a new five-year airport use and residual lease agreement with its signatory carriers that includes both cargo carriers and passenger airlines. The previous agreement expired in 2007, and a new agreement has not been struck until now due in part to the recession starting in 2008 and the subsequent bankruptcies of three airlines as well as the consolidation of Delta and Northwest.

“This agreement has flexibility with leasing space, which benefits the airport authority and benefits the airlines,” said airport president and CEO Larry Cox. “We’re going through a transformation here from a dominant hub carrier to hub carriers getting smaller. This will ensure that we have space available for new entrants and for other airlines that want to have service here.”

As for the new ground transportation center, it was originally scheduled to open in October but now will officially open next February, with a soft opening later this year so airport officials can work out any kinks.