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MLGW water pressure issues force closure of MEM passenger terminal

Sunrise over MEM

MLGW water pressure issues force closure of Memphis International Airport passenger terminal

Cargo operations not affected

READ LATEST UPDATE – 7 am, 2-20-21: https://www.flymemphis.com/NewsDetails?newsid=5351

MEM Status Update 2-19-21: 5:30 pm

  • The airport remains closed to passenger arrivals and departures tonight.
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  • We have confirmed that MEM will not open until at least noon tomorrow, although the opening time could be later. There is no set opening time at this point, as many details are still not confirmed. The airport is working on multiple short-term options that would allow for the opening of temporary restrooms and the resumption of passenger flight operations.
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  • Cargo carriers operate out of different facilities and are not impacted by the passenger terminal issue.
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  • Passengers are advised to continue checking with their airlines to stay up to date on scheduling changes. Each airline handles its own scheduling adjustments.
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  • MEM conducted a virtual meeting with airlines and other tenants this afternoon in order to share details of our efforts to re-open.
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  • We do not have an estimated completion time from Memphis Light, Gas and Water on the water system repairs, although they assure us that they continue to work diligently to restore pressure.
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  • MEM will issue an additional status update for Saturday no later than 7 am in the morning.

Rental car agencies plan to resume normal operating hours tomorrow, as follows:

Saturday, February 20, 2021

  • Alamo                 7am-10pm
  • Avis                     7am-11pm        
  • Budget                7am-4pm
  • Dollar                  7am-10pm
  • Enterprise           7am-10pm
  • Hertz                   7am-11pm
  • National              7am-10pm
  • Payless                7am-11pm
  • Thrifty                 7am-10pm

Sunday, February 21, 2021

  • Alamo                 7am-11pm
  • Avis                     7am-11pm
  • Budget                6am-11pm
  • Dollar                  7am-10pm
  • Enterprise           7am-11pm
  • Hertz                   7am-11pm
  • National              7am-11pm
  • Payless                7am-11pm
  • Thrifty                 7am-10pm

MEM Status Update 2-19-21: 12 pm

  • The airport remains closed at this time to passenger arrivals and departures. Cargo is not impacted by the water pressure issue at the passenger terminal, because the cargo companies utilize their own facilities.
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  • We do not expect that MLGW will be able to repair the water service today, but they have assured us that they are continuing to work to restore water pressure. MEM also continues to explore various short-term options that would allow for the opening of restrooms and the passenger terminal flight operations.
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  • Low water pressure is a significant problem for the airport because it prohibits the provision of adequate bathroom operations. The past couple of days, MEM experienced fluctuating water pressure from MLGW, but overnight it dropped below 20 PSI, which is too low to sustain bathroom operations and other functions. For a public facility that literally serves thousands of people a day, it is critical for the airport to have operable restrooms. Water pressure is also needed for boiler operations, cleaning and maintenance, and service for restaurants and other tenants.
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  • During our winter operations, our runways remained open and both passenger and cargo flights continued to arrive and depart. During winter weather events, even if an airport is open, an airline may still opt to cancel flights based on their schedule and networking plan. Essentially, the airport provides its status, and the airlines adjust their schedules accordingly. The airport does not dictate or control individual airline schedules and is not a part of the ticketing process between the airline and passenger.
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  • After the decision to close the airport today, MEM notified the airlines and at that point the airlines determined how and when to adjust their schedules.  For this reason, we ask passengers to continue to check with their airlines throughout the day.
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  • We understand that it has been a frustrating week for passenger travel and apologize to our passengers for this inconvenience, but we cannot operate the airport without a safe and dependable water supply and functioning restrooms. The resolution of this water pressure situation is dependent upon repairs made by MLGW to its system. We will update the airlines and the public as soon as we have more clarity on reopening.

Despite the terminal closure, rental car companies are open:

  • Alamo – counter open till 7pm 
  • Avis – counter open till 11pm 
  • Budget – counter open till 7pm 
  • Dollar – counter open till 10pm 
  • Enterprise – counter open till 7pm 
  • Hertz – counter open till 11pm 
  • National – counter open till 7pm 
  • Payless – counter open till 11pm 
  • Thrifty – counter open till 10pm

All rental car companies have key drop boxes for 24-hour vehicle returns.


MEMPHIS, TENN. (February 19, 2021) – Ongoing system-wide water pressure issues by Memphis Light, Gas and Water have forced the temporary closure of the Memphis International Airport (MEM) passenger terminal. The airport has experienced low pressure periodically this week, but levels dropped Thursday night to the point that passenger operations were no longer feasible. As a result, the airport is closed to incoming and outgoing passenger flights on Friday, Feb 19. Cargo operations remain unaffected.

The terminal will remain closed until water pressure has been restored to acceptable operational levels. MEM officials continue to discuss potential solutions and alternatives and remain in contact with MLGW on the progress of repairs. The airport requires a significant water supply for restrooms, operations, food and beverage, and the airlines.

“This is a last resort for MEM,” said Scott Brockman, President and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. “A passenger airport cannot function without a safe and dependable water supply, which we do not have at this time. Our staff is committed to providing a safe, sanitary and secure operation. We hope that MLGW is able to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.