The MEM Perspective

Some outtakes from a discussion with Larry Cox, president/CEO of the Memphis airport system ...

Memphis was playing host to the Airport Cities conference, all the rage among a certain category of airports, particularly overseas but growing in the U.S.

Cox started at MEM when FedEx started — “I’ve seen every day they’ve had a flight,” he comments ... they’ve grown together. He’s a member of the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame.

Is he nervous about Delta cutbacks at MEM?

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t nervous about Delta. You can’t take any of your customers for granted. Especially in this timeframe of volatility and uncertainty; the costs of the airline industry and fuel going through the roof. The airlines I think are being smart and cutting capacity; they’re removing smaller airplanes that made a lot of sense when fuel was $25-50 a barrel.

“I firmly believe that Delta is committed to Memphis. We operate, essentially, as another concourse for Atlanta Hartsfield. We’ve got a strong local market; but, our low costs offer an opportunity through Memphis that probably couldn’t be accommodated well at Atlanta. We believe we’re a complementary hub just like Minneapolis is a complementary hub for Detroit. Richard Anderson was a part of that and recognized it; and he’s learned to recognize that Memphis is complementary to Atlanta.”

On his being a president/CEO, not a director ...

“We are a business, with a huge customer service focus. It’s concessions; rental companies; everyone.

“I always want a win/win deal.”

On privatization of U.S. airports ...

“I’m not sure that privatization does much for you in the U.S. I think what’s the best model in the U.S. is an independent airport authority, which is what we have here. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed here. We’re free of the politics that you see at a lot of airports. You get a new mayor, you get a new airport director, who may not have any airport experience at all.”

On potential lessons learned from Canada ...

“I really like their air traffic control system. If we could have a NavCanada type of arrangement in the U.S., we wouldn’t be talking about NextGen; it would already be running. The users of the system are willing to pay for something that is cost-based and service-driven, instead of politics-driven.

“I don’t think the politicians want to lose control.”

Thanks for reading.

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