Opinion » Letter From The Editor

Flying by the Seat of My Pants

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A couple weeks ago in this space, I jokingly wrote that Memphis Airport Authority head Jack Sammons had agreed to become the executive editor of the Flyer. At least, I thought I was joking.

But some folks took me seriously and wrote emails castigating the Flyer for "selling out." I guess they also believed, as I wrote, that Sammons was taking over MIFA, the CVB, the Chris Vernon Show, Muddy's Bake Shop, and other local organizations.

Now it appears there may be a catch in Mayor Wharton's plan to add Sammons to his staff (for real), as the state legislature is declining to overturn the law that keeps a city's airport authority chief from serving in the administration of that city. This, in my opinion, is a good thing — because we need Sammons to keep focused on applying his formidable sales skills to get airlines to bring more flights to Memphis.

It won't be easy. The number of flights at MEM has increased slightly this year, but it's still way too difficult to get to anywhere from here. The situation isn't helped by the fact that competition between airlines is almost nonexistent these days. The country is basically down to four major airlines: Delta (spit, spit), United, Southwest, and USAirways/American.

And though fuel prices have declined by half, airline ticket prices have risen precipitously. A number of recent studies and articles have shown just how badly the American public is getting gouged by the airlines. But we have little recourse, unless Congress takes some action, a doubtful prospect.

Every May for years, I've been meeting some old friends for a fishing week in Pennsylvania. I used to hop on a Delta flight to Pittsburgh for around $250 and get there in less than two hours. That sweet deal ended a few years back. Now, my options are to fly through Atlanta (spit, spit) or Dallas or Orlando(!) or Charlotte or wherever else the airlines want to shuttle me to for a long layover. The prices have more than doubled. The travel time to get from Memphis to Pittsburgh has more than tripled.

One of my friends drives to our fishing camp from Detroit, so I got the bright idea to take a direct flight (one of the few remaining) to Detroit and ride down with him. It would be a five-hour drive, but at least I'd have good company. Nope. The Memphis/Detroit flight was around $700. Seriously?

We're getting gouged, I tell you.

Here's my new travel math: It takes 12 hours to drive from Memphis to Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Gas is around $2.50. My wife has a hybrid I can borrow that gets 50 miles a gallon: Road trip. Bite me, Delta.

The only other option I can think of is actually hiring Jack Sammons to run the Flyer, so maybe he can get me an Airport Authority discount.

Jack? Call me. Such a deal I've got for you.

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