Memphis International Airport (MEM) will receive nearly $17.3 million in federal taxpayer money through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law last month.

Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) announced the news late last week.

MEM spokesman Glen Thomas told The Tennessee Star on Monday that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will determine how, precisely, the money gets allocated.

“At this point, the FAA has yet to provide additional guidance on exactly how the funds will be distributed and what types of perimeters are associated with that distribution. Once we get more clarity on that, we’ll be able to determine what capital project or projects might be eligible,” Thomas said via email.

In 2018, the New York Times described MEM as “a glaring casualty of an airline merger that transformed the American aviation industry but cost the Mid-South’s most important city its status as a hub.”

As the Times went on to say, there once was a time when Northwest Airlines was the dominant carrier. Delta Airlines eventually gobbled it up. Delta then decided it only needed one hub in the south, in Atlanta.

“The decision cost Memphis almost two-thirds of its passengers,” according to the Times.

Thomas said Monday, however, that five new airlines have launched or announced they will service MEM. He listed those airlines as Air Canada, Allegiant, Frontier, Southwest, and Spirit.

“In terms of our passenger traffic, in 2019 we had a record number of origin and destination passengers at 4.64 million. Of course, since March 2020, COVID has had a huge effect on passenger traffic across the world, not just Memphis, but more recently we have been tracking at about 90 percent of where we were in 2019,” Thomas said.

“That bodes well for the future, especially with the expected return of more robust business travel. For more recent numbers, a total of 192,632 people passed through the security checkpoint in November 2021, according to Transportation Security Administration data. This total represented an 88.5 percent increase compared to November 2020, and a decrease of 10.5 percent compared to November 2019.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Memphis International Airport” by Memphis International Airport.