Part 1 – History, Financing and Inconvenience to Flyers
Kansas City Metro residents have debated the need for a new single terminal airport for years. Some like the user friendly short walk from parking lot to gate and others find it outdated, lacking in refinement and inconvenient.
Financing of public projects in Kansas City is challenging since it straddles two states. Neither Kansas nor Missouri residents want to pay taxes for projects that neighbors across the state line will enjoy for ‘free.’ The Bi-State tax to renovate Union Station, in 1996, is the only exception to date.
Proposed improvements to KCI have met similar resistance from Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) taxpayers. Why should KCMO foot the bill when half the travelers live in Kansas?
In a recent proposal for a single terminal at KCI, Southwest Airlines solved the financing problem and now the voters need to understand the $964,000,000 (2015 estimate) cost for construction will NOT be paid by KCMO taxpayers.
In early 2016, Southwest Airlines proposed to pay for the new terminal while only raising passenger fees by $2.10 to $9.00. At the time Steve Sisneros, Director of Airport Affairs for Southwest Airlines said, “We believe the new terminal concept maximizes the dollars spent for both customer convenience and operational effectiveness.” Sisneros further stated that Southwest Airlines would not participate financially in a plan to renovate the airport.
In May, 2016, Mayor Sly James of KCMO decided to delay public vote for this project because most KCMO residents do not understand the new single terminal will not cost them any money unless they fly. In a statement he said, “It’s clear that the city is not ready to move on or to move forward with the KCI conversation at this point,” James said at a news conference. “In fact, less than 40 percent believe that it is a good idea to move forward with a new terminal with the airlines paying for it along with the airport at this time.”
KCI was completed in 1972 for $252,000,000. TWA planned to utilize KCI as its hub for domestic and international flights accommodating planes up to the new Boeing 747 (Jumbo Jet) and insisted the on the ‘drive to your gate’ concept with only 75 feet from curb to gate. Unfortunately, when a 747 disgorged its 300 passengers and people spilled into the narrow aisle ways between the gate and airport exit, they immediately discovered the fallacy in design.
Another $250,000,000 was spent on renovations in 2004 to accommodate rising security requirements and increasing need for food and retail services and security checkpoints.
Current Logistical Issues
The 44 year old airport is still popular among locals because it easy to get in and out of, however it represents many challenges to travelers:
- TSA security posts at each gate.
- Since there is only one restroom and a small snack stand in each gate area, if a person exits the gate area to use the restroom, make retail purchases or eat at a restaurant on the concourse they must clear security to re enter the gate area.
- Passengers transferring flights must go through security if the connecting flight boards at another gate.
- When transferring to a flight departing from a different terminal, passengers must exit the terminal building, find the appropriate shuttle bus, enter the terminal and go through security again.
- The airport cannot accommodate indoor shopping malls and assorted restaurants and bars that modern airports offer.
- The limited dining options that close early, a traveler waiting on a transfer or a delayed flight has very few dining and entertainment options at KCI.
- Due to security issues with curbside parking, finding a taxi is inconvenient.
We hope those who read this article will put the word out to your neighbors, business associates and community leaders that the KC Metro needs a new Single Terminal and it will be paid for by the airlines and nominal fees assessed to airline tickets.
Click HERE for Part 2, in which we discuss the economic impact a new terminal will offer Kansas City and how it will affect its image as a World Class City.