This is the final installment of a three-part series in Memphis International Airport (MEM) which focused on the history of Memphis Airport as a once-major regional hub, and its current state where it is retaining its charm while in-transition. This story will feature its plans to modernize the airport.
A Better MEM
The hashtag, #BetterMem is well underway as Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA) is committed to modernizing and consolidating airport and retail operations at the sprawling airport. Once a major hub for Northwest Airlines, and eventually Delta Air Lines (which merged with Northwest in 2008), Memphis Airport is a ghost-town nowadays, offering primarily point-to-point flights to hub cities on just a handful of North American carriers.
Prior to Delta’s elimination of its Memphis hub, the airport utilized three concourses to support airline operations. Northwest Airlines occupied all three concourses during its heydays at Memphis, with the mainline operations in Concourse B, and its regional Airlink operations in concourses A and C.
Even after Delta shuttered its Memphis hub in 2013, the airport maintained operations in all three concourses. This changed in April 2018, when Delta moved from the B concourse to A, and Allegiant from B to C. International arrival gates, formerly located at B41, B42, and B43, will remain in-use for un-scheduled international arrivals, and passengers will be bused to the main terminals after customs.
In the intermediary, Concourse B is getting a huge makeover. The multi-year plan entails adding moving walkways, wider corridors, larger boarding areas, higher ceilings, and natural lighting.
As-is, Memphis airport looks like this in the secure side of the Concourse:
Prior to April 2018, the airport had essentially dedicated entire wings of the various Concourses to each airline. On the North end of Concourse A, Southwest had two main gates and two overflow gates, while in Concourse C, United had three main gates and one overflow gate on the North side, and American had a similar setup on the South side. Air Canada occupies one gate at C11, and Frontier at C1, which remain unchanged, while Allegiant had two main gates and one overflow gate in the B concourse. Delta, meanwhile, maintained ten gates in the B Concourse.
With plenty of gate space remaining in Concourses A and C, the airport made some changes and shifted Southwest down a few gates in Concourse A, while Delta moved into Concourse A to keep Southwest company, and now occupies six adjacent gates. In C, things remain status quo, with Allegiant taking up C2 and C4. Allegiant actually offers the largest number of destinations at Memphis but using a vastly reduced schedule that aligns with its Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier model. From MEM, it flies to Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando/Sanford, St. Petersburg/Clearwater, and seasonally to Fort Walton Beach and Phoenix-Mesa.
Now that the move has been taken care of, the airport is working with bidders to begin construction activities. This is considered, “Phase I,” which is expected to last until early 2021.
Phase II will begin with the opening of Concourse B. With the gates consolidated into one area, the A and C concourses will be shut-down, with the exception of one boarding gate in Concourse A to handle commuter airlines. All food and beverage locations will be located in Concourse B as well, and and the south ends of Concourses A and C will be removed to enable faster aircraft taxis to the B facilities. The southwest portion of Concourse B will be modernized in a future phase, and only utilized in the near term for inbound international flights.
Per the drawing above, Concourse B will take on an entirely new numbering convention, under the assumption that the airlines servicing Memphis will maintain the same number of gates that they currently operate. Frontier will lead the pack occupying 1 gate at the head of the Concourse, and American and Southwest will also take the first few gates before the “split” at the hammerhead into the two piers. Delta will return to the Southeast corner and be joined by Allegiant, United, and Air Canada. Gates A21/23 will be under construction to be re-purposed into gates used for commuter flights.
Phase II of the project also entails for the eventual closure of Concourse C and most of Concourse A. The north “arms” of both will be closed off, although presumably not demolished in case the facilities may come back into demand in the future.
With that, these are photos of the terminal experience that Customers traveling through Memphis can expect:
A virtual reality is also available of the new changes, which is pretty cool and worth exploring. There is also a neat YouTube video that has been provided on the website, www.flymemphis.com/modernization.
There will also be a children’s play area, charging stations, a revamped rotunda stage for live music, and additional lounges. The entire project is expected to cost $214 million, financed entirely by debt service, federal and state grants, and passenger facility charges, and not via tax dollars.