Southwest Airlines is a great brand known for consistency and straightforwardness. So it’s confusing as a resident and concerning as a customer to see them apparently talking out of both sides of the airplane.
Most recently Southwest’s spokesperson and director of airport affairs, Steve Cisneros, has been on board with the idea of a new terminal. Whether that’s because like the mayor’s task force, the airlines have not been given a legitimate renovation proposal to review, I can’t say. I can say that reasons now being given for a new terminal are the complete opposite of what the now Vice Chairman of Southwest told the task force a couple of years ago.
As I reported in November 2013:
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.
So what changed, besides Mr. Ricks being promoted to Vice Chairman of the Board at Southwest? Moreover, where is the media on this? (Ok, we know where the Star is but what about those who don’t have offices in City Hall?) There are several pretty significant contradictions here that beg questions? Mr. Collison, who has tweeted support for a new terminal, no longer works at the Star but reports for KCUR. I could find no evidence of any stories there about these contradictions from Southwest. I invite him and others to link to such coverage in the comments below.
Talk is that the airlines didn’t want to deal with Mark VanLoh, so the powers that be canned him. Maybe that’s why Southwest switched its position on a new terminal.
There are a lot of clearly biased comments on here. My wife and I own a second home south of KC and so fly into and out of MCI regularly. I’ve traveled domestically and internationally for work and pleasure for several decades. I’ve seen a lot of airports, big and small, great and awful. I have to tell you that of all the airports I have seen, I dread MCI among the most. Second most dreaded is Dallas, which ironically is built on the same concept of semi-circular distributed terminals with parking in the middle.
What is the problem with MCI? Congestion. Plain and simple. Too many people in too small a space. The gate areas are a nightmare of too many people and no place to spread out. The TSA and Airline service lines are too long and encroach into the walkways. The few places to sit and eat are crowded. It’s just not a pleasurable experience.
I get it, if you live locally and want to park near the gate it can be amazing. But that alone does not make a great airport. Each time I travel through MCI I am puzzled about why nothing has been done to bring it up to the standards of current airports. Kansas City is such a large metro area, why does the airport look like it belongs in a much smaller city?
Where I come from the airport is about the same age, opened in 1971, but continually renovated and modernized, and currently undergoing a $1 billion enhancement to keep it relevant. I don’t understand why the people of a great city like KC can’t get together and do the same.
Thanks, Joe. You are one of the few to comment on this site in favor of a new solution to MCI.
As a resident of Kc for 46 years, I think terminal A’s closing was to piss the public into going along with closing c and D for a one terminal airport. Its all smoke and mirrors.
I’ve been to the airport when it had a lot more airlines at it then its got now and I’ve flown to a few cities outside of KC to know this works better then any other airport. Who goes to the airport to eat and shop? You go ther to get the FUC* out of Kansas city.
With C and D only running the airports crowded. A’s so bad the government uses it for Drills . I think the Mayor is just trying to live up to his name and be SLY. But its going to stick us with a bill we can’t afford to pay. The only Name Sly James will make for himself is a lot of pissed off tax payers when the airport doesn’t gain more revenue off ticket sales. And we have to shell out our hard earned tax dollars for this shit on an airport that’s not in that bad of shape, Go look at the old airport I remember when it was still being used we managed then, We built TWA a large hub, most of the airlines that airport was made for it long gone bankrupt out of business. In almost any other city people would love to have KIC over what they do now. Thats fact Fly into Oakland and tell me how you think of KCI now, or Orlando. KCI works it always did installing security gates inside screwed it up they should have been on the sidewalks outside by the cars lanes. Yo enter security there and then enter the terminals and have full use of everything.
If you fell the need to smoke you go in the parking lot. As for Airplanes ther the same fuc*ing size they were 40 yeras ago.
Besides Oakland’s worse to drive an airplane to the terminal so’s vegas. Kansas City isn’t going to pick up what we once had in flight’s. Its gotten smaller not bigger and so has the city’s population by 100k people in that 46 years.
I was at the Denver airport last month. Leaving KCI, from shuttle drop off to luggage check to TSA to sitting at my gate was no more than 10 minutes. Returning 2 days later from DEN, from curbside drop off to luggage check to TSA to sitting at my gate was 55 minutes., most of that spent in line for TSA. Other trips, it took 30 minutes longer there. In over 40 years of flying from KCI, I have yet to encounter a security line longer than 10 minutes. I don’t shop at an airport. I don’t go to the airport to dine. I go there to catch my flight. The less time I spend there the happier I am.
More flights to more destinations? You mean like a hub? No thanks. Hubs mean higher fares. KC travellers, except perhaps those on an expense account, are price sensitive. We love the airport just the way it is. Nice rebuttals, KevinK, I’m with you, 100%. We know how incredibly efficient and special our airport is. You don’t mess with what works. Unless of course you stand to gain financially from a redo.
I am not a frequent flyer, only a couple trips yearly. However, I have never been in any airport in the US that is as easy and speedy to maneuver as MCI. With all the TSA and security problems I think we should leave our airport design alone, upgrade services and amenities as needed, and continue to offer the most convenient and easy to negotiate airport. All others should use our current design to improve their flow.
Couple of things stand out to me:
– It seems to me the biggest thing that has changed is the cost of a new terminal has decreased by 300 million dollars.
– I am also certain these quotes were offered up before the airlines brought their voice to the table. In fact, the consultant from AvPros who recently spoke (3/15) to the city is paid by the airlines to represent their cohesive thoughts.
It will be interesting to see how much money the airlines will commit to whatever plan the city decides to move forward.
Welcome back, B! These quotes WERE the airlines bringing their voice to the table. I’m simply asking what changed? The $300M difference in price is not an issue because we (the ATAG) were told to ignore the 1.2B number as it was merely what they thought they could get financed, not an estimate. I do agree that what the airlines bring to the table will be central. More than just money, there need to be service guarantees.
Kevin – what more needs to happen at this point? We have spent 2.5 years, hired scores of consultants, evaluated over 20 different proposals. What more needs to happen? I guess if we were to accept the Crawford plan for a couple 100 million, you would be satisfied?
I’m not sure the Crawford plan is the answer. It might be. Maybe not. My understanding is that they’ve prepared an extensive and fact-filled rebuttal to the comments made by the AvPros consultant but can’t seem to get an opportunity to present it to the Aviation Committee. I’ll be satisfied when it’s clear that everyone is being honest and open about what is really needed and not needed. We’re a long way from that and frankly, I don’t expect to see it up to and through a bond election.
Point taken. So how do we get to “what is really needed and not needed” and who has the final say? We have been deliberating for 2.5 years, how many more conversations need to be had? Isn’t that the point of electing officials is to help facilitate this conversation?
I see there is no reply button available next to your comment from 12:31p. Maybe my own site is cutting us (or just me) off! I totally agree that the point of electing officials is to help facilitate this conversation. However, when some of the officials and certain appointees demonstrate a disregard for the truth and seem to be working for someone other than the general electorate, and when no one in the media seems interested in pursuing the truth, then we are forced to step back in and do their jobs as long as it takes to get the right answers.
Nearly every traveler I know, especially the business flyers, loves KCI the way it is. I sat next to a guy at lunch once who said he flew every week and transferred to KC in part because the airport gave him 5 hours of his life back every week. The only people who want a new terminal are the people who make money from building one and the political hands they grease.
I guess you and your business flyer friends don’t overlap. I hear just the opposite from those who travel often.
– Full garages and circle parking
– Long security lines during the AM rush
– Crowded hold areas
The people who want a new terminal are planning for future generations.
There is one full garage mid-week due to putting the two busiest carriers in the same terminal. The garage can be expanded. Every airport has long lines during their AM rush. Ours are short by comparison but seem like an eternity to us because we are otherwise spoiled. Likewise the hold areas are crowded everywhere at peak times. One of the worst outside of LaGuardia is the new Dallas Love Field. Looks wonderful until there are several flights departing at once and then you are literally climbing over people with your carry-ons.
They are short because we have more checkpoints than any other airport in the country.
I have flown out of both Love and MCI during peak periods, one is a completely different experience than the other. While Love is crowded, people aren’t litter ally laying on the floor or being asked to move by TSA so others can leave the gate area.
You are correct about the checkpoints – something that TSA indicated was a benefit we would not be allowed to “value engineer” out of a new terminal. I have flown out of Love only once so not much of a sample size but on that occasion, my family and I were stepping over people in the gate area.
I would argue that those that travel often;
– use economy parking, not circle parking (although entirely dependent on overnight vs extended travel)
– should have airline status and TSA Precheck or Global Entry, if they do indeed ‘travel often’.
I’ve been at KCI every other week for the past year, and I’ve been very pleased with my experience. I will say that it is a pleasure to fly in/out of, but I would never want to have a layover there.
I couldn’t agree more with all the preceding comments. I have long thought, since coming to Kansas City 20+ years ago, that Kansas City was the best (most passenger-friendly) airport. Period. I was absolutely floored when Denver built their new airport. Why in the world wouldn’t they look at how well KC works, and how much people like it, before building another monstrosity like the one they did? WHY? I remain baffled. I, for one (and I believe there are many others) believe that the concept of the Kansas City airport is head and shoulders above ANY other airport in the US, and strongly oppose any effort to change it . At all. It’s just fine. Really. Leave it alone. If you have a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket, how about light rail?
Let’s examine the facts. Denver built their airport to plan for the future and their booming economy. Because of their investment, Denver travelers enjoy the following:
– Service to 187 non-stop destinations
– Service to 3 continents, which include Tokyo, London, Iceland, Frankfurt and Munich
– Soon to open light rail service from Union Station to DIA
– Southwest, Frontier and United hubs
I am not suggesting the same thing will happen if KC builds a new airport but did want to point out the facts as it relates to Denver.
Outside of one JD Power study, KCI hasn’t won any awards for the “best” airport.
What the critics haven’t offered up is how remaining status quo is going to help KCI for future generations? Eventually, after so many renovations, the airport issues will need to be addressed.
Denver built their airport because their economy was already booming and Stapleton was an ancient, land-locked airport, worthless in snow (kind of a problem for ski vacationers) whose land could serve other purposes. And I think NASA wanted an emergency shuttle strip at the time. I also believe it came in a billion or so over budget but could be wrong on that.
I agree with your statistical facts but they have nothing to do with the airport. Denver was already a United hub. Frontier is a start-up headquartered in Denver and Southwest bumped up flights there in response. 187 non-stop destinations is a function of two things: The United hub that pre-dates DIA and Denver being an international destination because of the mountains.
I fly fairly frequently to Denver. It’s a horrible airport. In fact, the best way to guarantee a no-vote on a new MCI would be to promise people it would be like Denver 😉
Sorry for pouncing on your comments this morning. I really do appreciate your views and participation.
True, United was a hub prior to DIA but Southwest did not serve Denver until after the airport was built (they may have served Stapelton briefly but pulled out long before DIA was built). Frontier’s hub has grown over the past 10 years but has scaled back recently.
Again, I don’t understand what the critic’s solution is? Leave it alone? Have another discussion with an “expert” who says everything is all good?
“I fly fairly frequently to Denver. It’s a horrible airport. In fact, the best way to guarantee a no-vote on a new MCI would be to promise people it would be like Denver”
– Sadly, it won’t even take that much. That is my biggest worry – the bond election will be so misconstrued that people will think they are voting on a Denver layout vs a LaGuardia. I can only hope council members and the media educate people on the facts.
An article appeared yesterday:
And, so, I sent this note to Mayor Sly James just now by going to http://kcmayor.org/contact/.
Airports exist to serve travelers, not airlines. Other cities around the world should re-design their airports to be more like Kansas City’s, not vice-versa.
Other airports consolidate their operations by function, which decreases convenience and security. Decentralized designs, like the Internet, are fundamentally more secure than centralized designs.
Security is just one cost. Airports that organize their operations by function require all passengers to be whisked off to all parts of of the airport just to conduct the base use-case of flying to another city. This movement of passengers and luggage is costly in infrastructure implementation and security, because having all travelers with reason to be moving all about the airport is less secure than travelers who have no reason to go to another part of the airport (like we have now).
We should show pride, not shame, about our airport.
Anyone who has compared experience at other airports knows KCI is “maxed out” at all, if anything, its underutilized.
“Decentralized designs, like the Internet, are fundamentally more secure than centralized designs.”
I disagree. More stable in the event of component failure, yes. More secure in the sense that one component being overloaded by numerous passengers (i.e. a ‘DDOS’ attack), perhaps. But in regards to physical security, I can easily imagine decentralized environments being much harder to secure and maintain.
FWIW, it was TSA in testimony to the airport task force, who said that our current decentralized environments provided security advantages that they preferred over consolidated screening and holding areas.