The City of Kansas City, Missouri, sold its citizens on the idea of a brand new terminal with the oft-repeated mantra, “The airlines are going to pay for it.”
Maybe, maybe not. As the projected cost of the terminal has climbed 50 percent or more before the first shovel of dirt has been turned, at least two airlines are saying they will not be able to afford the proposed showcase.
As reported by the Kansas City Star, “Executives at Spirit and Allegiant airlines told the council in letters dated Wednesday that they could not support the project because of price and cost sharing issues.”
“We will get these problems resolved and we will push forward with this project that was voted on by 76 percent of the people, and that even Spirit Airlines says is desperately needed,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James following the announcement by the airlines.
“As we move forward, I will be looking and watching to see who is helpful in protecting the best interests of the city in a positive way, and who isn’t,” added James in what seemed like a threat. “We should also remember that we are operating under the watchful eye of the voting public.”
From the launch of this project, however, the public has not been encouraged to watch. Throughout the campaign to sell the new terminal, voters were led to believe that the escalating costs of the project would be absorbed by the airlines.
The comments of Spirt executive Matt Klein show this claim to be seriously south of true. Klein told the Star that the proposed terminal is “too costly for smaller new entrant carriers to bear and sill deliver the value that we deliver to the community in terms of low airfares.”
As Kevin Koster observes in the SaveKCI blog,” Please notice how finally, we have an airline official publicly connecting the cost of operating at an airport to the airfares they charge people at that airport.”
Koster explains that Spirit cannot simply raise fares and maintain its market position as a low-cost carrier. Says Koster, “They would simply leave the market and take their planes where they can fill them more profitably.”
Those interested should read Koster’s blog in full. He has been involved in the airport redesign project from the beginning and knows the subject better than anyone at City Hall. Concludes Koster, “All we heard for years was that ‘we are not going to build a Taj Mahal.’ Now we’re being asked to pay for a Taj Mahal that might not be more than a double-wide with lots of windows.”