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VOL. 128 | NO. 57 | Friday, March 22, 2013

Passenger Traffic Continues to Fall at MEM

By Jennifer Johnson Backer

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Passenger activity at Memphis International Airport continued to fall in February as previous Delta Air Lines Inc. cuts to its local departures led to fewer passengers.

Total passenger activity in February dropped 33 percent to 357,722 passengers, from 533,474 during the same period a year earlier. The February results were announced Thursday, March 21, at the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority’s monthly board of commissioners meeting.

In November 2012, Delta announced it would pare its Memphis flight schedule by about 18 percent to account for reduced passenger demand. The Atlanta-based airline said it would drop all of its nonstop service to Birmingham, Ala., Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, Fla., in addition to cutting the number of daily flights it offers to 11 other cities. Delta also said it may reduce Memphis’ flights more if demand continues to drop.

“Our mission right now is to continue our relentless effort to bring affordable and frequent service to the airport,” said Jack Sammons, chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board of commissioners.

Sammons said he believes Delta’s reduced hub operations at Memphis International, one of the airline’s seven U.S. hubs, have left opportunities for other airlines to fill those gaps.

“It’s our job to tell that story and show them the holes they can hit,” he said. “It’s a challenge I take seriously.”

Total flights from Delta and its airline partners dropped to 97 scheduled flights in February, compared to 146 scheduled during the same year-earlier period.

For the fiscal year to date – July 1, 2012 through Feb. 28 – total passenger traffic fell 28 percent to 3.9 million passengers, from 5.3 million passengers during the airport’s previous fiscal year to date. The airport’s fiscal year runs July through June.

The number of daily scheduled flights at Memphis International also dropped to 135 in February, from 177 in February 2012.

Cargo continued to buoy revenue for the airport, the world’s second busiest for cargo behind only Hong Kong.

Memphis handled 1.5 million pounds in February, up 5.5 percent from 1.4 million in February 2012.

For the fiscal year to date, Memphis International handled 5.95 billion pounds of cargo. That’s up 2.8 percent from 5.79 billion pounds of handled cargo during the same year-earlier eight-month period.

In other activity at the monthly Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board of commissioners meeting, commissioners approved a new contract for maintenance services with Denver-based ISS Facility Services Inc. The contract is expected to cost about $2.1 million for the first year, and $11 million over a five-year period.

The maintenance services provider also provides cleaning services for Denver International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport.

The airport authority board also awarded a $2.1 million construction contract to Knoxville-based EMJ Corp. for seismic upgrades to existing airport infrastructure. The upgrades will strengthen airport structures in case of a future earthquake.

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