I’m not sure which is more newsworthy, the fact that Kansas is doing appropriate due diligence on a new airport or the media firestorm that has erupted around it. Even I was interviewed. Twice.
Having recently seen Donald Trump elected President and the New England Patriots come from 25 down in the Super Bowl, I would never say that a Kansas KCI is impossible. However, I would have put money on either of the other two first.
We’ve discussed this possibility here twice in the past 3+ years, most recently following a Steve Rose column in the Star. Here is what you need to remember:
There are two remotely realistic possibilities – Expand New Century or start from scratch. A New Century expansion requires a new terminal and a new runway and extension of at least one other. Cost likely $2-3 billion and at least 10 years away. Of course, takeoffs and landings would be over Falcon Ridge and Cedar Creek developments and their golf courses. Does anyone think THAT is going to happen? It would also lower undeveloped residential property values nearby. Again, not going to happen.
Starting from scratch means finding 8,000-10,000 empty acres in the most expensive county in Kansas that are near a highway and not near an expensive development. The only reasonable possibility at first glance is the old Sunflower Ammo plant, just this side of DeSoto. However there might be EPA issues with that site as well as lack of infrastructure. Starting from scratch means 2-3 runways, plus a terminal, plus support buildings, cargo facilities, etc.. Such a project might be in the $3-5 billion range and be 15 years away – more if there are EPA issues. But you avoid the golfers and make everyone in Lawrence happy. Personally, I’m curious to learn how you make a $2-5 billion project more affordable to the airlines than our $1 billion project. But math was never my best subject.
So how much more convenient would either of these locations be to JoCo travelers? I chose a exceptionally fair location – the Sprint Campus. Travel savings to either were a whole 10 minutes – assuming no traffic. Of course I doubt the designer would use the same design as KCI, so that 10 minutes saved would likely be returned somewhere between the single security checkpoint and long concourses. Moreover there is only one highway to Sunflower. There are two to KCI which is handy if one is blocked.
Perhaps more of an issue though is the current largest customer at Kansas City International Airport (and likely the single largest customer of Southwest at KCI) is Fort Leavenworth. Moving to either of the suggested Kansas locations would DOUBLE their airport commute to an hour each way. I would imagine they would have something to say to the FAA who would have to approve moving KCI to Kansas. I would also imagine that Marriott and the other hotel operators at KCI would have something to say about it. Those jobs don’t move.
Finally, I would think that the guy who headed up the inauguration for the new president under whose purview the FAA falls would have something to say about it. That of course, is Missouri Senator Roy Blunt.
So again, I don’t think there is much of a chance that this ever gets off the ground. (Not my pun.) But it was fun to watch the same city officials who said a year ago that it was time to press the pause button on the conversation, now say it’s time to get our act together.
Have you read through the Yelp reviews of our airport? I finally did. Wow! You really should take a look. There are a few positives. But I’d say about 90 percent are negative. Then compare it to Indianapolis, which got a new terminal. Mostly positive reviews. These things matter. People associate our city with our airport.
Hey, Dan – it isn’t just Yelp. See below:
The fact that you’re a fourth generation KC native explains a lot. KC has a long history of being a “do-nothing” city. Despite being a rail hub and at the confluence of two navigable rivers, KC historically was outpaced in growth and progress by many of its peer cities. KCMO also has a history of chasing away financial opportunities — think the Speedway and the American Royal as two recent examples. KCMO is inefficient and has always had an attitude of keeping things the way they are and shunning progress. Now, the airlines and the feds want to GIVE us a new airport. Local taxpayers will pay little if anything for it. But once again, the “do nothing” KC attitude and fear of change raises its head to stop progress. KCI isn’t even that convenient. When I fly SWA on business, I almost always have to park at a different terminal and take a bus because the SWA terminal parking is full. And it’s embarrassing. So, Mr. Koster, you fit right in here in KC. You are furthering a long tradition of fearing change and wanting to “save” KC from progress. You are a true Kansas Citian. As someone who has lived in many other cities, I must say that KC is takes the cake for holding itself back. I hope you’ll at least admit to your readers and supporters that they will not be paying for the airport. The airlines and feds will. It’s practically a gift.
Thanks for your comments. Alas, I cannot honor your request at the end because it is not true. As it’s clear from other comments that you’ve made that you either have not read this blog, have not researched the issue and/or don’t really care, let me help.
The airlines offered to continue to pay rent. They did not offer to pay for a new terminal. Moreover, the lease expires long before any bonds would be paid off. Read the docs. The feds cannot (under current law) pay for a new terminal. Thus it’s not a gift. That is a lie.
I don’t dispute that you have bad experiences. However, your assertion elsewhere suggesting that no one enjoys KCI and appreciates it more or less the way it is is absurd and frankly calls into question the veracity of your own experiences. I flew to Houston on SWA a couple of weeks ago. Parked in the terminal lot and was at my gate in under 7 minutes from the time I locked my car. Three weeks earlier a similar experience on Southwest for a conference in Las Vegas. Over these years I’ve asked multiple business travelers and they cite the overall speed and convenience of KCI as a business benefit, reducing the cost of their company’s business travel.
And remember, the parking issues were in part created by combining the two largest carriers in B when they didn’t have to. They can be fixed without a new terminal. And you can always use the valet.
I for one love progress. Find a better solution than the dishonest ones put forward to date and for reasons that are both true and don’t need to be spun to be palatable and I’m all over it.
The business case for a new terminal was bolstered after Southwest and the other airlines told the City Council on April 26 that they would finance the nearly $1 billion new terminal, to be built where the mothballed Terminal A is now. They said it could be paid for with no tax increase, no general taxpayer dollars and no big ticket price increases.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article85755692.html#storylink=cpy
First of all “financing” something is not the same as paying for it as anyone who has financed a car through the bank knows. When you remove the spin language, the actual documents say that the airlines essentially agree to pay rent and that said rent can be applied to retiring the bonds. If an airline leaves, they are no longer required to help “pay” for a new terminal and the other airlines are on the hook. Should these other airlines decide that they don’t like that, they are free to renegotiate and/or leave if the extra burden makes it unprofitable to fly here.
Of course, the financing aspect is separate from the physical need or lack thereof for a new terminal but it has become more relevant because proponents are using it to mislead the public with a “what difference does it make whether we need it or not, the airlines are paying for it” argument. This is simply not true.
Meanwhile, Alaska Air has announced two new non-stops this month bringing to close to 10 now, the number of new flights announced since we were told last year the airlines could no longer add flights.
There is a series of articles in the Kansas City business journal from 3/17 that paint a picture of needing a new terminal. Lots of reasons. Some highlights:
KCI received a D+ in passenger experience which puts it toward the bottom of the list
The wait to get through security is the third longest of any airport, which in large part negates any time saving of the walk from your car to the gate
There is demand for more flights, and more direct flights, in Kansas City, the Aviation Department’s Justin Meyer recently explained. But airlines will locate new direct flights at other airports with less demand, he said, because KCI isn’t as pleasant an environment for business fliers, especially those getting on connecting flights.
I’ve also heard about companies we were courting as a region who said, ‘You just flat out don’t meet our needs as far as air transport is concerned, so we can’t consider you,’” she said. “Those things are frustrating when you have a community that’s growing as quickly and dynamically as we are right now.”
Southwest Airlines, has throttled back connections in Kansas City because the connecting experience is so bad. Meyer said that limits KCI’s ability to land nonstop flights, which are easier to fill when there’s demand by both local and connecting passengers.
Dallas leaders are proud that they attracted the Toyota headquarters from California, Reardon said, and they advised their Kansas City chamber visitors last year that the coup was largely attributable to the superior air connections offered by Dallas-Fort Worth’s two airports.
I’m sorry, Kevin. But there are so many reasons to build a new terminal, and very few not to. Saving 5 minutes on the walk from your car to the gate doesn’t justify giving up all the economic and civic benefits a new terminal would bring. I know KC natives have a hard time with change, and many would prefer that KC keep its small town style. But those of us who want to see KC live up to its potential realize what an opportunity this is. Southwest is NOT going to leave KCI. And if it’s willing to back the bonds, and if KC taxpayers don’t have to pay for the new terminal, even better. It’s amazing to me that we can’t replace a 40 year old airport and Chicago Midway is about to spend $250 million revamping their terminal after it did so only 9 years ago. Then again, given KC’s do-nothing history, and an abundance of people who are scared of change, it’s not that surprising.
BTW, I just got back from Dallas — where I grew up. The growth that place has seen is amazing. Part of it is simple geography. But part of it is that Dallas has always welcomed progress and done a great job of attracting money and jobs. People there embrace growth, and it shows. They are willing to invest in their region. KC seems so sleepy on my return.
You could argue that those who want to remain status quo are using the reverse tactic: what if all of the airlines leave, who will pay? Publicly-owned airport GARBs (General Airport Revenue Bonds) have NEVER defaulted. So there is that…
Two good links with factual information and no spin.
Airlines are adding service because the air service development department is doing a great job, can only wonder how much more success they could have if they had more to promote in terms of facilities.
Southwest said today that it needs more room so it can add flights to RDU, PIT, and CLE. So instead of reopening Terminal A, Kansas City officials keep pushing a new terminal plan that will never pass if put to a public vote.
Why should we trust Sly James and the city council with big things when they can’t get the little things right.
Couple of considerations:
– The reason the existing horseshoes cannot be optimized for connections is the geometry. Concourse needs more depth.
– Without depth it’s impossible to add amenities (seats, restaurants, restrooms) that connecting passengers desire.
– The reason Terminal A isn’t the answer is because it has the same geometric constraints as B & C. Departure lounges are too thin.
I wonder how much Sly paid Brownback to come up with this fantasy in order to make gullible voters think it would ever happen if we don’t go along with his pipedream for MCI.
Why don’t you want a new airport terminal? When will you be ok with building one? When its 50 years old? 60? How long does it take? Or is it never ok to replace outdated, inefficient and economically depressing infrastructure?
City Hall, Municipal Auditorium, and the Jackson Co Courthouse were all built of concrete over 80 years ago and are doing just fine. On top of that, it was Pendergast concrete. No reason not to have the same expectations of our concrete structures at KCI.
It is efficient, functions well, has 3 long runways to facilitate timely takeoffs and landings, and in comparison to the mega airports like ORD, LAX, JFK, DEN, ATL, etc. it is extremely user friendly. I routinely arrive 10 minutes before boarding (add 10 minutes for checking luggage) and I have never missed a flight. Nor has my luggage. Having multiple security checkpoints is the key to keeping things moving. Paying for extra checkpoints is a whole lot more cost effective than radical redesign or starting over.
We don’t need a new airport. It is a first class operation now, just as it is. IT WORKS! Please leave it alone. We don’t go to an airport to eat. We don’t go to an airport to shop. We go to an airport to begin our journey. Yes, it can be a little congested at time, but hey, suck it up. You’ve no doubt heard there is no such thing as a free lunch. Well, there’s no such thing as a free airport. Whatever money available for radical unneeded surgery, ultimately came from our pockets. So it is we that would be paying for any reconstruction. Look closely next time you are at KCI. We have a very classy looking airport. If the city fathers would work for the taxpayers and users instead of for special interests we wouldn’t need this discussion.
By the way, MY out of town friends, both businessmen and leisure travelers, LOVE our airport. The only valid reason for changing things is to support some airline’s hub operation here. My friends in Denver, Chicago, and LA say the last thing you want at your airport is a hub. Hubs lead to monopolies and monopolies lead to predatory pricing of airfares. Let’s sit back and enjoy the advantages of airlines duking it out here for our benefit. Not so much as before but we’ll take any break.