Jack Sammons was elected Thursday, Jan. 17, as the new chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board of commissioners.
Sammons becomes only the fourth chairman in the board’s 40-year history, following Arnold Perl, Jim McGehee and Ed Cook.
Sammons’ appointment follows the unexpected retirement of Perl last month, and he will now serve out the remaining four years of Perl’s final term. Sammons is currently president of Ampro Industries Inc. and has served on the board since June 2010.
The January board meeting began with the recognition of 40 years of service from Larry Cox, airport authority president and CEO, who will retire in July 2014.
Sammons was nominated by commissioner Jon Thompson. Commissioner John Stokes nominated board vice chairman Herb Hilliard, who declined the nomination.
In his first remarks to the board as chairman, Sammons acknowledged upcoming challenges at Memphis International Airport – a passenger hub for Delta Air Lines Inc. – with reduced air service and inordinately priced fares.
“The airline industry is constricting, not growing,” said Sammons, who noted that 16 hubs have failed since 1990, and since deregulation in 1978, 17 airlines have shrunk down to four and soon it will be only three. “We are going to continue to be unrelenting in our commitment to soliciting competitive air service.”
He suggested building a new strategic plan for the airport separate from its master plan.
“The plan will involve all of us with input from our community,” said Sammons, who logged nearly 200,000 miles on Delta last year from Memphis. “It will have an unshakable focus on customers, it will be transparent and engage the public, and it will create a customer-driven culture that guarantees a positive experience from the parking garage to the departure gates. I hope I can bring a contagious enthusiasm for my interest in this customer-centric focus.”
Sammons also hopes to establish a partnership with the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis & Shelby County (EDGE), and he wants to create a new position of public information officer to handle public relations for the airport and engage the public.
“My goal is to make Memphis International Airport the airport of choice for the flying public of our region,” Sammons said. “I welcome anybody who offers advice, constructive criticism and help because in the end the future of this airport is everybody’s business.”
In December, thanks to decreased service from Delta, total enplanements dropped 33.7 percent compared to December 2011, falling from 315,033 enplanements to 208,905.