High airfares could be opportunity for Memphis - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

High airfares could be opportunity for Memphis

(WMC-TV) – A new report released by the Federal Aviation Administration says airfares are likely to stay high throughout this decade.

The reason: fewer flights and higher demand. But some say this could be an opportunity for Memphis International Airport.

Fewer jets are taking off at Memphis International and as a result, fewer passengers are in the terminals.

If you've used the airport recently you've seen the tumble in travelers.

New numbers from the activity report show a significant drop in travel at Memphis International

From January 2011 to January 2012, there was a more than 20 percent cut in passengers and a nearly 30 percent cut in scheduled flights.

"We're talking to a number of airlines," said Larry Cox, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

However Cox, who's also the chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber, declined to comment on which airlines the city is courting and how the talks are going.

The news that Southwest will take over Air Tran's flights is welcome. The hope is that the airline will expand its service here, but Delta continues to make cuts.

The airline just announced last week that in 2013 the non-stop flight between Memphis and Amsterdam will only be offered during the summer.

"I think we've reached the low water mark," said Cox. "Better days are ahead."

Larry Cox pointed to Memphis' selling points for future business.

"We have very low costs, the lowest cost to the airlines in the country," he said. "We're in a central location. We have great weather, no delays, second safest airport in the country and plenty of open facilities."

He says right now, a better local economy will mean more flights, more options and more competition which might translate into lower airfares.

"We need to grow our job base here," said Cox. "The more people you have here that can afford to fly than their service will come if there is a demand the air service will come."

Delta CEO Richard Anderson said the Memphis hub is not going anywhere.

In fact, this week he told The Commercial Appeal it has been right sized with about 150 flights per day which is in line with the airport's size. He says business travel skews the prices higher, but prices on leisure travel remain competitive as long as they're booked far enough advance.

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