Government & Politics

Council approves extension of KCI’s airline leases while airport’s future is debated

The City Council approved a measure Thursday that extends for three years the existing leases with Southwest and the other airlines at Kansas City International Airport.
The City Council approved a measure Thursday that extends for three years the existing leases with Southwest and the other airlines at Kansas City International Airport. dpulliam@kcstar.com

The contractual agreement between Kansas City International Airport and its airlines has been extended for three years, through April 30, 2020.

The City Council on Thursday approved the extension to keep the airport on an even keel. If the community reaches consensus before then on airport improvements, the lease terms can be terminated and rewritten.

The lease agreement defines the relationship and normal course of business between the airport and its airlines, eliminating the need to enact agreements with each individual airline. The terms and conditions are identical for each airline, except for the defined space that each occupies. Those terms can also be extended to any new airline.

The current agreement had been set to expire May 1. Deputy Aviation Director David Long said the extension will provide stability while the public debate over the airport’s long-term future continues.

Kansas City-area residents are deeply divided over whether to modernize the airport with a single terminal, replacing Terminal A, or with renovations to the existing terminals. Long said that if a community consensus emerges on airport improvements within the next three years, this lease can be changed.

Meanwhile, work continues on interim improvements.

Construction is underway on American Airlines’ checkpoint and gate area to make them more spacious, with completion expected later this spring.

A design professional has also been selected to modernize the international gate area.

The airport is on a strong financial footing. Aviation officials told a City Council committee Thursday that, of 92 airports that Moody’s rates, only 11 have a higher credit rating than KCI. Operating revenues have increased by about 16 percent since fiscal year 2014, and unrestricted cash has grown to more than $100 million.

KCI had more than 11 million passengers in 2016, the sixth-busiest year in its 44-year history. It is among the fastest growing of the top 50 U.S. airports. When ranking March year-over-year airline seat capacity growth by percentage, KCI only lagged behind the airports in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn.; and San Jose, Calif.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

Kansas City Aviation Director Pat Klein talks about short-term improvements on tap for KCI while city debates airport's long-term future.

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