After the jump, a letter from Memphis congressman Steve Cohen to the two airlines, asking them to consider expanding their presence in Memphis:
Mr. W. Douglas Parker
Chairman and CEO
US Airways Group, Inc.
111W. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, Arizona 85281
Mr. Tom Horton
Chairman, President, and CEO
AMR and American Airlines
4333 Amon Carter Boulevard
Dear Mr. Parker and Mr. Horton,
I am writing to reiterate my invitation to your new, merged airline to expand its presence at the
Memphis International Airport (MEM). During a February hearing in the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, I shared with the testifying members of each of your companies’ leadership, Mr. Stephen Johnson of US Airways and Mr. Gary Kennedy of American Airlines, my hopes that this merger will result in increased competition that will benefit the flying public living, visiting, and doing business in the Memphis area.
As you may know, until quite recently, MEM was a hub of Delta Airlines (previously, of Northwest Airlines and prior to that, Republic Airlines) boasting over two hundred flights per day and a direct flight to Amsterdam. When Delta’s CEO, Richard Anderson, testified before the Judiciary Committee in 2008 prior to the approval of its merger with Northwest he made many promises about the future of MEM’s role in the business of Delta Airlines. As I detailed to Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Johnson in the recent February hearing, Mr. Anderson assured me that Memphis would remain a Delta hub and retain the Amsterdam flight. He hinted that the airline may consider adding a Paris direct flight, as well. As I expressed my concerns to him about MEM’s proximity to Delta’s home-hub of Atlanta, he assured me that flights in and out of my home city would not dwindle and in fact, it may be adding to the schedule. At a meeting in Memphis, he pledged to city leadership that the Northwest/Delta merger would be one of addition, not subtraction.
Unfortunately, restructuring at Delta has resulted in a very different outcome than was foreseen by Mr. Anderson in 2008. Flights to and from MEM on the combined Northwest/Delta have dwindled from more than 240 daily to 60 as of September 3, 2013, a date which also marks the end of MEM’s hub status with Delta. The Amsterdam flight was canceled long ago; the Paris flight was never mentioned again.
I detail my disappointment in these developments to you because I hope that you will take this opportunity to enter into a newly competitive market in the Memphis airport that did not exist when Delta dominated in our terminals. While my constituents and I are deeply disappointed by the diminished flight schedule announced as a part of this restructuring of Delta’s Memphis presence, its permanent departure from so many of our gates provides a unique opportunity for your new airline. I am hopeful that this will attract the new American to our large, state-of-the-art facility. MEM boasts a newly renovated terminal, mild weather, and, soon, many empty slots. It is home to FedEx’s SuperHub, and thus provides a great partnership that ensures that the runways and surrounding area are maintained to first-rate standards. The airport itself has a brand new air traffic control tower, and, most importantly, a potential consumer base anxious for new competition and service from an airline like the one that you are preparing to establish.
As I shared at the February hearing, I remain cautiously optimistic about the positive impact that your merger could have on the flying public in the Memphis region. I believe that the opportunity for expansion at MEM is a natural fit for the new American. I encourage you to bring more flights to, from, and through MEM. The consumer base exists, and so does the community’s collective desire to revitalize one of our country’s great airports.
As always, I remain,
Member of Congress