Dramatic Decline in Memphis Airport Traffic Not Helped by ‘Nashville-Based Government That Mainly Focuses Dollars on Middle and East of State,’ Shafer Says

The Memphis International Airport has had a dramatic decrease in the amount of traffic that goes through there, and the chairman of the Shelby County Commission says some of the blame lies with the Tennessee state government.

Shelby County Commission Chairman Heidi Shafer talked to The Tennessee Star in response to a recent New York Times article that detailed how Memphis International Airport has lost almost two-thirds of its passengers in recent years.

“All of West Tennessee is in the process of adjustment…trying to adjust to the reality of heavy competition with neighboring states’ tax incentives, the move away from brick and mortar, a Nashville-based government that mainly focuses its dollars and action on the middle and east divisions of the state (think Mega-Site), and an airport that must balance crucial cargo traffic with de-hubbed passenger status,” Shafer told The Star.

In a report that came out this month, the Times described the Memphis airport as “a glaring casualty of an airline merger that transformed the American aviation industry but cost the Mid-South’s most important city its status as a hub.”

As the Times went on to say, there once was a time when Northwest Airlines was the dominant carrier. Delta Airlines eventually gobbled it up. Delta then decided it only needed one hub in the South, in Atlanta.

“The decision cost Memphis almost two-thirds of its passengers,” according to the Times.

“From more than 11 million in 2007, the last full year before the merger announcement, the count fell to about four million last year.”

The result — three concourses are left and most of its gates are unused. Airports officials will spend $219 million to close and renovate one concourse and mothball the other two.

Anyone who wants to see the Memphis International Airport return to its glory days should start paying more attention to state and local politics, Shafer said.

“This governor’s race is crucial for West Tennessee. We need a governor who will use his or her influence to get around the road blocks blocking us from being competitive,” Shafer said.

“We need special incentives for West Tennessee to attract business, and we need a clear plan to get the Mega-Site operational FAST to spur our economy.  If the economy in West Tennessee picks up, the airport problem will solve itself.”

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8 Thoughts to “Dramatic Decline in Memphis Airport Traffic Not Helped by ‘Nashville-Based Government That Mainly Focuses Dollars on Middle and East of State,’ Shafer Says”

  1. […] As The Tennessee Star reported in May, the chairwoman of the Shelby County Commission said some of the blame for the airport’s woes lies with the Tennessee state government. […]

  2. J. Bilbrey

    Memphis has been corrupt for as long as I can remember, going back to 1979 when I attended Memphis State. The Ford family and other political figures fostered an atmosphere of cronyism and nepotism while neglecting the needs of the city. Crime and filth reigned, leaving the blues industry to fight for attention. The airport failed because Memphis was never a destination, rather a pass-through. It was and is a dangerous, nasty place, run by liberals. Instead of whining about the airport, clean up the city and attract tourists- airport growth will follow.

  3. I grew up in Memphis. It was a great time. I moved to Nashville in 1992 and wouldn’t consider moving back to Memphis even if I was paid to. Memphis is notorious for everything that makes cities undesirable. Memphis has whined about its status since I was a little boy. At first it was about Atlanta’s development as the premier city in the south. Then it was about Nashville’s development as an “it” city. Violent, sweltering, disfunctional, these are words that come to mind when Memphis is mentioned. The comment above is spot on when it states that the millions of lost passenger traffic was not visitors to Memphis. It was people visiting Memphis International Airport to change planes and get the heck out of there. Btw…where does the New York Times get off declaring Memphis to be the Mid-South’s most important city?!?!?!? Fat chance!

  4. lb

    Memphis is a pain to deal with as an airport. That being said, do something to promote your city instead of whining constantly. Clean it up, make it safer and get rid of the corruption, then you will see more people wanting to come.
    I used to travel there regularly for business and never felt safe.

  5. John J.

    The only visitors to Memphis have their own wings, flies and vultures! What Ms. Shafer fails to admit, is that the shortcomings of Memphis, and soon to be Nashville, are due to the same liberal ideologies that are sinking every other city in the US! When you GIVE somebody something, and don’t expect them to elevate their performance in exchange, you create an endless welfare state, an urban plantation! Voluntary servitude. Oh, the chains are there, you just can ‘t see them!

  6. 83ragtop50

    Is it possible that the problem lies with the local area itself? I cringe every time I drive through Memphis on I-40.

  7. Bill Hobbs

    Nashville also lost its hub, back in 1995. Traffic through the airport has soared since, not plummeted like it did in Memphis since they lost their hub. I wonder if Memphis’ problem isn’t that the hub closed, but that not very many people want to travel to Memphis. See, when Memphis had big traffic through it’s airport it was due to the hub, which means a lot of people merely changed planes in Memphis. They weren’t coming to Memphis for business or vacation, they were changing planes at the airport. Once your hub is gone, you get to see what the real demand is for air travel to/from your city. Nashville’s airport handled 14 million passengers last year and is now in the early stages of a $1.2 billion expansion.