Airport announces changes to MEM concourses - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Airport announces changes to MEM concourses

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The announcement of a multimillion dollar remodel might be a sign of progress at most airports, but at Memphis International it is a sign of the city's shrinking airline industry.

It's no secret that total passenger traffic has dropped drastically in the last five years at Memphis International Airport.

Delta Air Lines removed its hub and many of the flights are gone. Southwest Airlines has arrived and given an up tick in local travel while lowering airfares, but the days of hub service are over.

Airport Authority Chairman Jack Sammons says they did not have a crystal ball about what Delta Air Lines was going to do. However, he says the airport was in strong financial shape, so the $114 million revitalization project will be funded.

The project will modernize the nearly 50-year-old airport; it is expected to bring flights back to the Bluff City. There will be wider gates, moving sidewalks, higher ceilings and more natural light. The project does not include new taxes or bonds.

Chairman Jack Sammons says it is the responsibility of the board to keep it modern, fresh and enticing.

But with more than $100 million in renovations comes some major downsizing.

"We want to have an open, airy, receptive welcoming terminal concourse," said Airport Authority President Scott Brockman.

Airlines, food and retail will be consolidated to concourse B, but ticketing will remain in A, B and C. The plan also includes the removal of south ends of concourse A and C to allow for unobstructed access by the airlines to entire B concourse.

Airport leaders say the airlines played a role in some of the planning. The idea is to get more flights and airlines in a user friendly airport and terminal.

Brockman is very optimistic they will add airlines to their mix and routes as well. They say this will all be done with affordable fares.

Despite the bad reputation for airfare prices in Memphis, statistics show the average cost of a domestic flight is actually a few dollars cheaper now than it was in the year 2000.

Frequent flyers like Richard Roy prefer a discount over the decorations at Memphis International.

"Price versus frills ... Yeah, I'm kind of a no frills airline kind of guy," he said.

Since 2008 the airport has gone from 8,500 employees to now 4,300. That does not include FedEx workers.

The Airport Authority says it will not lay off any employees as a result of this project, which should be completed by the year 2020.

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