While “convenience” is most often cited as the reason people like Kansas City International Airport in its current configuration, there is another big reason the mayor put the project on hold last year. Trust, or lack of trust, in the city on this issue based on our experience over the past few years. Perhaps it’s time to at least consider a new custodian for our airport.
Maybe it’s time to privatize KCI.
The Trump administration is talking about helping fund major infrastructure projects. The Star reports that KCI is relatively high on the list. But in addition to revenue streams and immediate job goals, the administration is looking for public/private partnerships. There have been two excellent articles recently on airport privatization.
In December, Patrick Tuohey of the Show-Me Institute introduced the idea to the KCI conversation and cited a Cato Institute article that offered:
Airports should be self-funded by revenues from passengers, airlines, concessions, and other sources. Federal subsidies should be phased out, and state and local governments should privatize their airports to improve efficiency, competitiveness, and passenger benefits.
Then this week, The Wall Street Journal joined the conversation adding:
American airports are typically run by politicians in conjunction with the dominant airlines, which help finance the terminals in return for long-term leases on gates and facilities. The airlines use their control to keep out competitors; the politicians use their share of the revenue to reward unionized airport workers. No one puts the passenger first.
Citing a case in Puerto Rico where until 4 years ago, the San Juan airport was run by the local port authority, the article noted that dramatic changes have already taken place under private management:
Airlines no longer control the gates, but they’re reaping other benefits. “We’re paying lower fees for a much better airport,” says Michael Luciano, who runs Delta’s operations in San Juan. “Almost every area has been renovated. You go into any restroom, and it’s bright and clean—things like that are really important to our customers.” Passenger volume has been growing 4% annually, well above the industry average.
Both articles are worthy of your review and the idea of privatization at KCI is certainly worthy of inclusion into our airport conversation.