Airport authority hopes incentives will bring down price to fly

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Airport Authority is hoping $1 million in incentives will help bring in new air service to Memphis International Airport and cut the prices on those costly flights.

Memphis International Airport has become one of the top three most expensive airports in the country. Thursday, airport leaders made a move in an effort to change that.

"$1 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1," said Memphis Airport Authority President Larry Cox.

The goal of the Memphis Airport Authority's incentives is to attract more airlines or more flights from existing airlines. With each new flight, the larger the jet, the more credit in fees and advertising each airline could earn for 12 months beginning this July.

"So I commend this leadership I think it's the right thing to do," said John Moore, Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce.

"It does get the notice of conventions when they're making the decisions. It gets the notice of the traveling public locally when they're planning a trip," explained Kevin Kane, Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But not all agree the incentives will increase service and lower flight costs.

Lina Khan works for the New America Foundation. It is a public policy think tank in Washington D.C. For months, she studied trends in the airline industry.

"Citizens and taxpayers put down a lot of money to try and bring the airline back. In all instances, what happened was that the taxpayers were left with a huge bill and service never came back," she said. "Memphis, right now, is victim to what is a national crisis.

She says Memphis is going the way of Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St Louis. The former hubs are losing service. She says the next step might need to be congressional action.

"Citizens and business leaders need to band together with people from Cincinnati with people from St. Louis with people from Memphis," she encouraged.

Right now, incentives are the plan to beef up service and competition. The Memphis Airport authority says the money for the incentives is coming from a reserve fund and will not affect the airport authority's operating budget.

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