Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Snow hole of mid America

Memphis, Tennessee, that is. For some reason, this place doesn't see a lot of snow.

So far this winter snow has been reported in Meridian, Mississippi, Birmingham, Alabama, Shreveport, Louisiana and parts of Southern California. It has snowed in Baghdad, Iraq and just today it snowed in Jerusalem and points further south in Israel. Still nothing so far in Memphis.

Hey, not that I relish driving in it, or scraping it off the car. But seasons are nice. It would be nice to see some white stuff before the jungle heat returns in a few months.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Worry over the hub

Everyone's worried about the hub, and with reason. But let's consider some things first. Sure, if Northwest gets swallowed by Delta they'll no doubt scale back MEM. Oh sure, they'll be some hollow reassurances to the city of their dedication to the community right before they buzz off (reference the American acquisition of Trans World and its effect on St. Louis). But unless Delta is simply trying to eliminate the competition it would seem United is a much better fit.

For example, here's United's route map:

Well, they don't really put out a real route map anymore. It's a marketing route map filled with deception. In reality they've got hubs at Chicago, Washington, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Think west and north.

Here's Delta's:

They don't have a real route map, either. Sorry. But notice their hubs, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Orlando, Salt Lake City and the obligatory New York service.

Here's Northwest's:

Hubs in Memphis, Detroit and Minneapolis with extensive pacific service. Delta already has coverage of Atlanta and Cincinnati, which are closer to Northwest's hubs than to United's.

With United, Delta would have a stronger presence in the northeast, a Chicago hub to compete with American, and a huge west coast presence. Admittedly, their Salt Lake City hub (former Western Airlines base) might be in jeopardy (certainly Memphis isn't the only city worrying at the moment). Just saying--if the idea is to expand and put pressure on American, merging with United makes more sense.

But whatever they decide, Memphis has some amenities that aren't going anywhere anytime soon. We are blessed with some of the best aviation weather in middle America due to a lack of fog or extended periods of low ceilings (crud). There are very few winter storms. Yes there are thunderstorms, but no more than in Dallas or Atlanta. And finally, it's geographically advantageous. Location, location, location, as they say. With fuel prices high that might make ole MEM an attractive destination for an upstart or even established carrier should Northwest pull up stakes.

But if the worst happens it'll definitely be a culture shock to many Memphians. Republic Airlines started the first real hub here in 23 years ago, a year before merging with Northwest. Ironically, prior to that Delta was one of the biggest carriers here so not having convenient non-stop service would be hard to get used to. There's one silver lining, though--the prices might come down.