Wharton pledges to bring in new airline - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Wharton pledges to bring in new airline

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In his state of the city address on Friday Memphis Mayor A C Wharton pledged a new effort will be made to bring another airline company to the airport.

Wharton's comments came as the result of his enthusiasm over the selection of Jack Sammons as the new Memphis Airport Authority board chairman.

It's as if Mayor Wharton experienced an "awakening."

Despite flying to such locales as Mexico, New York and the Orient on economic development missions he apparently never heard the grumblings of his fellow passengers about the cost of air service in Memphis.

But, now apparently he's come out of his jet lag.

In light of Thursday's news of Pinnacle Airlines "kiss-off" to the city in opting to move their headquarters to Minneapolis, musician Senda B couldn't have done any worse if he'd chosen to warble the classic "Leaving on a Jet Plane" during the State of the City.

Later, in his speech, Mr. Wharton drew one of his loudest rounds of applause when, as if channeling a scorned Scarlett O'Hara, he vowed to find a way to get more Memphians back to flying in the friendly skies from their own airport.

"We are going to tackle and we will succeed in bringing in other carriers and bringing down the cost of flying in and out of our city," he said.

Wharton was one day removed from being among a contingent of area government officials who were given a ground tour of Memphis International personally conducted by Sammons.

"He took me, (Shelby County) Mayor (Mark) Luttrell, Mayor Chip Johnson from DeSoto County, the mayor of Senatobia, a bunch of us," Mayor Wharton said. "We spent the morning out there literally touring that whole campus, learning things I didn't know."

The "look see" appeared to inspire new resolve in Mr. Wharton to be proactive in formulating a campaign to educate the public about the problems confronting the airline industry and it's effect on air travel costs in Memphis.

"We didn't explain what was going on," Sammons said. "We didn't explain to them how fuel costs were increasing, making a regional jet, which was the model we had here, not a sustainable model. The public didn't know that."

Since "knowledge is power" Mayor Wharton says he's ready to hit the trail in support of Memphis becoming a player in the airline industry of the future.

"Get on the plane or a bus or something," the mayor said. "Start going to these cities, talking to airline representatives, working with Fred Smith over at FedEx who is respected highly, taking advantage of his contacts. It's a mighty task. It's going to take time, but, it can be turned around.

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