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.
The primary focus should be on how do you attract more service from the airlines. Lowering the cost of doing business at KCI should be what is pertinent.
Nobody chooses to buy and airline ticket because the airport is so efficient. They do buy airline tickets because the fairs are so affordable.
Mr. Mullins, your reply does speak to the larger issue. The airline industry itself being down. Before we spend money on a new terminal, lets solve the greater issues. Rising costs to fly and the fact that we no longer are a hub for a major airline. First, let’s make it cost effective for airlines to want to fly in and out of KCI. Let’s take advantage of our location in the heart of the USA as we have in the past and study ways to evolve that marketplace. Let’s spend our money on trying to develope our own heart of America affordable destination marketplace and not constantly try to keep up with the San Diego’s of the world. We need to show that flying in and out of KCI makes sense. There is a new destination marketplace out there for affordable flights to affordable, shorter destinations with people spending less money to visit someplce. If someone is taking advantage of this market already, then forgive my rant.
If you follow the (consultant) money since the last formal update of the KCI Master Plan it will be evident that a great deal was spent on and by an experienced airport planning consultant.
The notion that Southwest was not consulted before the single terminal “solution” was sketched (and it’s little more than that today as we now know) and run up the City Council flagpole is simply not a credible one.
Experience with a long history of Decide, Announce, Defend type schemes (most recently the Medical Research Tax Initiative) is unequivocal – promoters pulse of the key stakeholders and then go forward ignoring the input of those who might take exception with what they want to do.
The KCI Single Terminal Option is no different; in fact the operation of the Mayor’s ATAG after almost five months seems to be reading from the same playbook. It’s certainly not the playbook the FAA recommends for how to do Airport Master Planning!
How else to explain the approach to stakeholder engagement – be it airline, TSA, cab drivers or the public – one that provides for hearing those inputs only after boxing in the eventual conclusion with a lot of unvalidated brainstorming about what’s of value in a competent recommendation?
The argument is simple – Convenience, convenience, convenience – if changing the present set up reduces convenience and raises costs – why bother considering it further. These are not boom times for air travel – the region has more important issues to attend to.
Take a vote on the Null Option – when it passes, then gracefully wind-down the ATAG now – not in April when the only option likely to be left is an ugly shoot-down at the ballot box.