I just put my daughter on a plane back to her home in Austin, Texas. "Why don't you come down and see me this summer?" she said as I hugged her goodbye.
"I'll look into it," I said. So I did. I checked out fares from Memphis to Austin for a date in late June. The cheapest flight out of Memphis was on Delta Airlines for $497. Pretty steep, I thought. So I checked around and I found I could fly from Nashville to Austin for only $290. The Nashville flight, also on Delta, had one layover. Care to guess where it was? If you said "Memphis," you would be correct.
So, let's do the Delta math: I could save $207 by driving to Nashville, flying back into Memphis, and taking the original Memphis flight to Austin I would have paid $497 for.
It gets even more entertaining. Guess what that same flight from Nashville into Memphis costs on its own, for those same dates? An absurd $597! You can fly from Nashville to Austin via Memphis for $290. But if you want to take the same plane from Nashville to Memphis, it's $307 more!
This is not only insane, it's criminal. It's price-gouging of a high order, and it's putting our city at a huge economic disadvantage. It's discouraging conventions, tourism, and commercial travel. It's making it prohibitively expensive to do business out of Memphis.
Former Shelby County executive Tom Jones has started a Facebook group called "Delta Does Memphis," where members can share their Delta horror stories. It has grown to 600 members in a week. My story, the one I cited above, is not atypical. In fact, it's common. Delta is screwing Memphis with impunity.
So what, beside bitching on Facebook, can be done? How about congressional hearings with testimony from Mayor Wharton, city officials, and a bunch of angry Memphians with Delta horror stories? We could add officials from Cincinnati, as well. Delta is gouging the Queen City as much as Memphis. Then let's call in some Delta execs and ask them to explain their fare-pricing practices.
Congressman Steve Cohen is a member of the House committee on transportation and infrastructure. He also sits on the aviation subcommittee. Cohen is good at getting attention from the national media and very good in front of a camera. I don't know how possible a hearing would be at this point, but it can't hurt to try. Shining the national media spotlight on Delta's outrageous price-fixing might help bring the airline back to earth.