(Memphis) It’s been like a bad break-up for the past few years, elected leaders telling us the city’s largest airline is no longer in our best interest.
“We should not peg our future on Delta”, said Mayor A C Wharton in 2012.
We’ve been told the secret to affordable airfare lies with the bright , shiny, new girl in town.
“It’s very important that all of us when we can, try to fly on Southwest Airlines,” said former airport director Larry Cox, last year.
WREG dug through travel documents for the executives at Memphis International Airport and found their airline of choice is in fact, Delta.
Out of dozens and dozens of flights, they only flew Southwest twice, and one of those trips was when the airline first came to town.
They’ve only flown American once, all the rest of their dozens of flights were on an airline they are supposed to be working to build competition for.
“Most of us don’t plan our own trips, but I think you make a valid point,” said Airport Authority Chairman Jack Sammons.
Sammons told us in his own company they fly all the airlines and encourage the use of Southwest.
He admits the airport needs to look at that also.
It’s more than airport leaders, Memphis based Congressman Steve Cohen commutes from Memphis to Washington D.C. and his office told us he almost always flies Delta.
In an interview with WREG, he cited Delta’s schedule and in-flight Wi-Fi so he can stay connected and also what he called Delta’s larger ‘adult sized planes.’
Publicly, for years, he said Delta holds us hostage, runs a monopoly, and he wanted them investigated, yet he spends money with them regularly.
Why are all the business leaders flying the airline many of them tell us we should avoid?
“They’re very loyal, they like getting on the plane first, they like their perks, their miles,” said Tricia Peacock, a Memphis travel agent.
Receipts from the airport executives show some are platinum members on Delta, meaning they often get upgrades flying first class and business class for no charge.
“What we talk about is great, but lets practice it,” said Peacock.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton flew Delta almost 90-percent of the time he boarded a plane.
“It’s convenient. Most of the time I try to go up and back in one day,” said Wharton.
He said Delta is on-time more and he has a tight schedule.
He also said WREG’s investigation is spot on.
“The premise of your story is correct. We fought so hard to get Southwest. We need to do all we can to support it,” said Wharton. “I will do a better job at that.”
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell flew Delta half the time he traveled.
The rest was split between United and US Airways .
The tallest man of the bunch squeezes into US Airways’ planes, which were too small for Congressman Cohen.
“I already decided long ago, I’m going to be cramped on any airplane I fly,” said Luttrell.
He even had a model plane of a US Airways jet, given to him when the airline added service to bring competition with Delta.
He said it is the right thing to do and he can’t believe everyone else isn’t doing it,
“It surprises me,” said Luttrell.
“I do think we need to try to show some loyalty to these airlines who are taking a risk on us. We need to take a risk on them.”
It is important to point out Delta does offer the most service to Memphis, and in many cases, it has the most convenient schedules.
This isn’t about beating up on one airline, but considering the analysts who say supporting everyone is the secret to lower fares at Memphis International.