By Jeff Beals
Nearly 11 million people passed through Memphis International Airport in 2008, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. By 2014, the annual passenger count had plummeted to 3.9 million.
Memphis is a growing region with a healthy economy. It is home to FedEx and other major companies. The city is a popular tourist attraction thanks to Graceland and the legendary Memphis-style BBQ restaurants. What on Earth could have caused such a shocking drop in airline passenger traffic in only four years in an otherwise prosperous city?
The answer is simple: it happened because of a decision made hundreds of miles away in a Delta Airlines office building.
Because of macro changes in the airline industry, Delta gradually shut down its hub at Memphis International. At one time, Memphis was one of America’s primary passenger hubs. Millions of travelers would layover in Memphis before catching a flight to their final destinations. Being a hub meant that Memphis enjoyed non-stop flights to almost every major city in the United States. Now in 2015, Delta offers daily non-stop flights from Memphis to 64 fewer cities than it did a few years ago. The number of weekly flights decreased 66 percent from 2008 to 2014.
But Memphis is not alone; Delta has reduced hub activity at Detroit and Cincinnati too. United Airlines took hub status away from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport resulting in a 44.6 percent decrease. Milwaukee’s decline as a hub has resulted in a 45.2 percent decrease.
Local residents lose more than just non-stop destinations when an airline vacates a hub airport:
- Sales tax revenues drop. Passengers with layovers have time to kill, meaning they spend money. I almost always grab something to eat or drink when I have a layover.
- The airport’s budget is directly affected. At one point, Memphis International Airport had 83 gates leased to airlines. Now it’s only 25 gates.
- Economic development efforts are more difficult. Cities have to work hard to recruit and retain businesses and all the jobs and capital investment that come with them. Some businesses are not interested in operating in cities that do not offer a wide variety of flight options.
- Prestige is eroded. I remember when St. Louis Lambert International Airport was a crazy-busy hub for Trans World Airlines. It was always so crowded. I was at that airport last year and had some extra time to take a walk. I walked through corridor after corridor of empty gates. It was eerily depressing.
Just think of the businesses that suffer when an airport suddenly shrinks. If you own a retail or food-service business that leases space in such an airport, you’re probably going to have to shut down. If it’s the only location of your business, you might have to declare bankruptcy.
So, why do I share this downer of a story with you?
It’s to remind you that change is constant in our world. We must keep up with it, and more importantly, we must try to anticipate it. Change has a way of sneaking up on us.
When change comes, organizations and individuals need to be ready. The best option is to have a plan ready to go for a variety of scenarios. Sadly, many of the sudden changes that can affect you are entirely out of your control. That’s why it might be good to have an exit strategy in case an unforeseen change is too overwhelming for you to keep going.
I don’t believe we should live in fear of unforeseen changes. They are simply part of life. Organizations and individuals have been surviving and overcoming changes for centuries.
Just be ready to adapt and either survive, or if it’s the best choice, exit.
Are you doing what it takes to prepare for what may await you?
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at email@example.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.