(Memphis) Big changes are coming to the Memphis airport. There’s a new leader and there will likely be a new look.
For the first time, the airport is discussing possibly shutting down one, maybe two, of its terminals.
The Memphis airport once proudly displayed the label ‘international;’ now it’s focusing on local travelers.
They’ll do it with a new leader in charge, Scott Brockman, who’s currently vice-president.
“I will do things my own way. There’s a lot of positive in Larry Cox’s 40 plus years. I will never belittle that but I have my own way,” said Scott Brockman, VP Memphis Airport Authority.
Brockman takes over after Memphis Airport Authority President Larry Cox retires in July 2014.
In 41 years, Cox worked his way up from unpaid intern to president, making $350,000 a year.
He leaves with a hefty retirement deal. He’ll get an annual pension of $172,000 and a one time payment of $526,000.
Cox said the growth of FedEx made his job easy.
The downfall of the airline industry did the opposite.
“That was inevitable. I don’t care who you had in this job here, who you had serving on the board of directors for this airport authority , this was going to happen,” said Cox.
Board members say things are looking up.
With the arrival of Southwest Airlines in Memphis this year, competition has lowered ticket prices.
The airport is still in good financial shape, but will need to restructure.
This means tearing down or shutting off one, possibly two, of the airport’s terminals.
“It will definitely include closing some space. It may mean removing parts of buildings, maybe not all of terminal A,” said Brockman.
Shutting down terminals has been done at other airports when they’ve lost hub status.
“We’ve always had airport development, it’s just going to become more focused in a different way towards the Memphis traveler,” said Brockman.
Airport leaders say this means they’ll need a much smaller airport.
“If you’re only going to need 30 to 35 gates, you’re not going to need 100 gates,” said Cox.
Does this mean Memphis is giving up on ever regaining its once bustling travel business?
We asked industry experts who say Memphis is doing what cities like Pittsburgh did when US Airways pulled out.
Aviation Watch Dog Michael Boyd says this is a way to cut costs by closing down unused space.
Boyd said, “First of all , it’s a security area, so you can’t turn it into the world’s largest bowling alley. You can’t turn it into an office park or something like that because it’s in a secured area. The only thing you can do with it is mothball it for the time being.”
Boyd suggests mothballing instead of tearing down.
Still, he doubts Memphis’ airport can ever be what it used to.
New leader Brockman knows that.
“We’re going to be studying what we should be targeting from the flight base and we’re going to move forward on all those things, ” said Brockman.
Board Chairman Jack Sammons definitely isn’t giving up on the airport.
He says to expect an announcement about another airlines coming to Memphis any day now.
Sammons also says Memphis is becoming a more affordable airport and is no longer one of the most expensive airports to fly in and out of.
Cox boasted about a $79 ticket he saw online recently.
The On Your Side Investigators didn’t find that one, but we did find an $87 one-way ticket to Baltimore.