This really doesn’t come as a surprise to those of us who have truly approached this issue with an open mind and with eyes and ears to the community and the users of KCI on both sides of the ticket counters.

Ron Ricks, Executive Vice President for Southwest, had several money quotes today in a well-written Kansas City Star article by Kevin Collison. And while many seem obvious or touch on observations presented here before, it is the first time that they have been stated publicly by an airline official and most importantly, from the airline that represents half the traffic at KCI.

  • A new $1.2 billion terminal would triple our costs. That’s a problem.
  • The airline, which operates an average of 70 flights daily at KCI, believes that the current runway and gate capacities are more than adequate for future air service, and that the airport functions efficiently.
  • Customers don’t make a choice of flights based on amenities; it’s more based on choice of flights and cost. Our question is how many amenities do you want at what cost?
  • A $1.2 billion proposal would be a disincentive for airlines to service Kansas City.… We’re confident we could come up with something for the community at a much lower cost than what’s being presented here.
  • Right now, Kansas City’s lower operating cost gives it an advantage over larger hub airports such as Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta Hartsfield when it comes to playing host to connecting flights. That could change if costs jump substantially.
  • Connecting passengers are really important. We wouldn’t be profitable on local passengers alone.

It was also interesting to learn that Southwest has helped design and fund terminal projects in Dallas and Houston in return for a share of future revenues. This might be a good solution on several levels as it would transfer risk from the city and also marry our most important carrier to KCI, likely increasing service.

The key as always will be a partnership that is beneficial to Southwest while not negatively impacting access to other carriers and their routes. Finally, the current conveniences of KCI from a passenger perspective, its greatest asset and “sales feature” for attracting business, can’t be impacted.

Could it be as simple as just giving them Terminal A? That would also solve the just revealed artwork issue.

Welcome to the conversation, Southwest. Right on time.

In fact, one wonders why you were seemingly left out of the conversation until now. Did no one from the Aviation Department contact you or solicit your input BEFORE we spent the millions on the current proposal and the months of subsequent meetings, forums and discussions? Frankly, as a member of the airport task force told to view the Aviation Department as a “landlord,” I assumed that they had made sure that their largest tenant, one who occupies nearly half of their facility, was a integral part of the conversation from the beginning.