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News & Opinion

KCI Consultant Was Right After All – We Should Look At Sacramento

Way back in early April at the Council hearing, the Aviation Department’s consultant Mark Perryman suggested that Kansas City look to Sacramento’s new billion dollar terminal project as an example of what Kansas City could expect from a “newer airport that worked well.” At the time, I pointed out that they spent all that money and still had multiple terminals and long walks. How was that something to emulate for “improving” KCI?

Now today, Sacramento’s airport is in the news again. I stand corrected. It IS an airport worth studying. Some excerpts:

Faced with declining passenger levels and high debt, Sacramento International Airport officials say they plan to cut airport system costs by 15 percent over the next 18 months.

The county’s airport department is saddled with more than $1billion in debt from the recent construction of its new Terminal B.

Wheat said his management team has not yet decided what cuts and operational changes it will make. “Everything is on the table,” he said. He declined to rule out layoffs, but said he hopes to reduce employee costs through natural attrition as some employees retire or leave for other jobs.

However, the money section is here:

Though it drew rave reviews from local business leaders and politicians, the project was criticized by airline executives, including those at Southwest, as too big and too expensive for their needs. To help pay for it, the county increased airline fees, making Sacramento one of the most costly airports in the country for airlines to do business over the next few years until the airport debt is reduced.

Wheat said Sacramento will have to lower those costs if it wants airlines to increase flights here. He traveled to Southwest Airlines headquarters last month to preview his plans with airline executives. Southwest is the dominant carrier at Sacramento International, operating more than half of the airport’s flights.

Southwest officials said this week they support Wheat’s efforts.

Sound familiar?

Ron Ricks, Executive Vice President of Southwest will address the Mayor’s Airport Task Force on January 14th. Expect to hear him tell us among other concerns that if we follow Sacramento’s path, we will experience Sacramento’s result.

As we’ve said dozens of times, new billion dollar terminals don’t attract flights. Market demand and low cost to the airlines attract flights. The only question is will we heed Southwest’s advice and the new lessons from Sacramento?

Update: When Mr. Ricks, who has since become Vice Chairman for Southwest, addressed the task force he did indeed caution Kansas City to not follow Sacramento’s example, saying that in addition to their financial losses SAC had lost flights and service.