Editorial: Airport took huge strides under Perl
December 23, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Arnold Perl retired as chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority this past week. He has earned both a rest and a thank-you.
For 16 years Perl chaired the airport authority. For most of that time Memphis International Airport enjoyed an unbroken string of improvements — due in large part to Perl's leadership as chairman of the authority, as well as to the outstanding day-to-day operational skills of airport president and CEO Larry Cox, and the unbending support of the airport's largest customer — FedEx.
The airport's progress under Perl's tenure as chairman of the airport authority speaks for itself.
Early in his tenure, Northwest Airlines grew its passenger hub in Memphis and added international flights to Amsterdam.
Then, FedEx anchored its operations at Memphis International Airport even deeper as a result of Perl's ability to complete the 11,000-foot "world runway" that FedEx said was essential to the company's long-term commitment to Memphis.
Later, a land swap between FedEx and the Air National Guard allowed the ANG to complete a new hangar that ensured a next generation of C-5 military transports would be based here — while giving FedEx more room to expand in the decades ahead.
Most recently, Memphis International Airport has all but completed a much-needed face lift that includes a state-of-the art parking facility and improved landscaping on the parkways leading to the airport.
Unfortunately, some critics of the airport authority likely will be crowing that they forced Perl into retirement due to their negative attacks on him and the authority in recent months as a result of Delta Air Lines cutting back its Memphis hub.
The attacks were low blows. Worse, they displayed a woeful ignorance of the facts.
Perl's critics kept lamenting the lack of effort being made by the airport to both keep Delta's hub and to bring in new airlines.
In fact, no one made more of an effort to do both than Arnold Perl.
His behind-the-scenes work went to the very highest level of Delta Air Lines leadership. Never did Perl give up on keeping the Delta hub. When it became clear that Delta, in fact, was mostly pulling out of Memphis, it was Perl again who was among the first to visit other airlines, including Southwest, to see what could be done to bring in other carriers and cheaper fares. Southwest agreed, and will be coming to Memphis in 2013.
The peanut gallery never saw that. It never seemed to fathom that no airport authority can dictate to any airline how many flights land, or what fares can be charged in a city.
When the anonymous sniping started to build on websites and even billboards, Perl took the high road. He wasn't going to engage in some vendetta against him or the board. That was the right thing to do.
And it's probably right that he retire now, too.
He's done good work and it's a new era at the airport.
Thank you, Arnold Perl. Let's hope the next airport authority chairman can look back on a comparable record of achievement.
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