Kansas City residents this weekend found in their stack of mail a campaign piece from advocates of a single terminal at KCI that makes a bold claim: “It’s time for more direct flights.”
The mail piece from the KC Transportation Transit and Tourism Committee follows a frequent refrain among promoters for a single terminal: A yes vote on Nov. 7 for the $1 billion project will lead to more direct and nonstop flights from Kansas City to the rest of the world.
“The new, single-terminal design will retain the convenience we love while adding more direct flights and better flight options,” the mailer reads.
The only ones who can make that promise and keep it are the airlines, and so far they have not committed to adding flights to and from KCI purely by virtue of a new terminal building.
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A senior director from Southwest Airlines acknowledged to The Star last week that the new terminal won’t necessarily lead to more flight options, but did allow that the current facility inhibits the airline’s growth at KCI.
“The facility actually limits our growth,” Steve Sisneros, senior director of airline affairs for Southwest Airlines, said in an interview. “Currently, there's no guarantee to what we may able to add.”
Southwest Airlines is the dominant airline at KCI, accounting for roughly half of the commercial passenger traffic in and out of the airport.
Mark Nevins, a partner with the Dover Strategy Group leading the pro-KCI campaign, said that while he didn’t expect that airlines could guarantee more flight options with a new terminal, airlines have expressed an interest in routing more flights through Kansas City and that he was confident they would with a new terminal.
“The airlines want to put more direct flights into Kansas City,” Nevins said. “They're not going to come right out and guarantee it. If they have the opportunity, they will add more flights.”
Sisneros said Southwest Airlines has added more connecting flights at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport than Kansas City in recent years because the customer experience for passengers making connections through KCI is poor.
The mail piece listed endorsements for the new terminal — which voters will decide on Nov. 7 — by Kansas City Mayor Sly James and nine of the 12 members of the city council.
One of the names absent from endorsements was Scott Taylor.
Taylor said he supported the new terminal.
“I noticed I was not on the mailer,” Taylor said. “I have no idea, I was not asked one way or the other.”
Nevins said Taylor was one of two council members who voted against awarding the KCI contract to Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, which will develop the terminal if voters approve the project on Nov. 7.
Lee Barnes was the other no-vote. Barnes’ name was also not listed among the endorsements. Barnes has been critical of Edgemoor’s selection and has pushed the company to commit to women- and minority-owned business participation and a community benefits agreement in an eventual memorandum of understanding with the city.
“I was approached and I sent a message early saying that until we have an agreement and I'm satisfied that Edgemoor is going to be able satisfy the issues I had with the (memorandum of understanding), I was not going to publicly endorse the campaign,” Barnes said.
Heather Hall was also not listed among the endorsements. She could not immediately be reached for comment.