Memphis airport activity dips 85% as travel troubles empty MEM


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis International Airport at noon looks more like midnight lately as the airline industry continues to struggle in the wake of COVID-19.

Newlyweds Jordan and Katelyn Kenner embraced a long, tearful goodbye as Jordan headed back to his post with the United States Marine Corps.

And on this day at Memphis International, they’re both fully aware of the “clear and present danger” — the coronavirus.

“As anybody, I’m pretty concerned, but at the end of the day, there’s a job that’s gotta be done, and everybody’s gotta go back to work eventually,” Jordan Kenner said. “So, I’ll take my chances.”

But these days, when it comes to travel, fewer people are taking chances.

Robert Wilson was putting his kids on a flight, and they didn’t leave empty-handed.

“They’ll be fine,” Wilson said. “They’ve got their gloves, they got their masks to put on when they get back there, if they need to. Hand sanitizer, of course. So they should be okay.”

Flights were departing and arriving, but the big boards showed numerous cancellations.

Many passengers who were canceling their flights and postponing their trips so a lot of the planes leaving Memphis were far from full.

“Our passenger activity is down by 85%, and it mirrors what’s happening nationwide,” said airport authority spokesman Glen Thomas.

Like Thomas, many people working from home and very few are traveling.

“Really, it’s been a shocking development, and that really speaks for all of us worldwide, as an individual, as a professional,” he said.

Things have happened so quickly, it’s hard to imagine this a month ago — a security checkpoint most of us only dream of, with no line and no wait.

“My experience traveling is, it’s really been cool,” said traveler Marcus Slate-Bey.

Slate-Bey was on his way to Atlanta and, because of the coronavirus, he has the “next best thing” to a private jet.

“Less and less people have been traveling due to the, you know, travel ban, and cautions that have been asked to be taken. But other than that, it hasn’t really been a problem for me,” he said.

But for a while, it will continue to be a problem for an industry in the middle of a nosedive, as ticket agents see a dwindling list of passengers.

 “We’re doing our best day to day, to do what we need to do, focus on what we can control and keep things running until there are better days,” Thomas said.

If you have to travel, you probably need to contact you air carrier first.

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