Should a majority of Kansas City voters elect to pass the referendum for a new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport in November, we will truly be buying (and despite what proponents say, paying for ourselves) a pig in a poke.
We’re offered a Hobson’s choice: Choose the single terminal. There is no longer any official discussion of remodeling our current popular, convenient structure.
How convenient? “In 2016, KCI ranked among the lowest of all airports in the number of security delays — defined as wait times of more than 20 minutes — between 2006 and 2015,” according to a recent Kansas City Star editorial.
Airlines have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to plan responsibly for the future. As such, every airline serving KCI has, or should have, already modeled the tremendous impact on ticket prices associated with building a new, billion-dollar (plus interest, before overruns) single terminal.
Why aren’t we, the local people who will be paying higher airfares, being told what those financial models reveal? How much more, per ticket, will we be forced to pay? Airlines and the city council should know — and we don’t.
And we won’t. Why? Because, they don’t want us to know prior to the vote Tuesday.
Ditto for parking fees. KCI management has, or should have, modeled how much more parking fees will cost local travelers. According to The Star’s Dave Helling, “Kansas Citians who don’t fly may pay a few extra pennies for parking when they pick up a friend at the airport.”
Exactly what is Helling’s reporting based on? What factual sources can he cite that prove it will only be “pennies” we will have to pay? Is this wishful thinking, a flight of fancy, or fact based reporting? If Helling has real facts, cite them.
Why aren’t we being told the truth? Because, who would be foolish enough to vote for this boondoggle if we knew it?
Single terminal proponents also claim, with no factual proof, that there will be an increase in the number of flights and destinations served. At the very least, why aren’t we given an estimate of how many additional flights and which new destinations? Because no airline has committed to either.
In business, the race for revenue is relentless. If 1,000 people per day demanded to fly non-stop from KCI to London, airlines would find ways to park 747s catawampus at the current gates to get the passengers, and the revenue, on board.
A new single terminal will not increase demand. Or new destinations.
Further, we’re often reminded that the majority of airport users is made up of out-of-town interlopers who will bear the brunt of the costs. That does not mitigate the fact that we local airport users will pay much more, so those who don’t even live here will have “better” options for a latte or scone.
From the beginning, this entire process (led amateurishly, and with as much secrecy as Mayor Sly James could muster — remember the requested confidentiality agreements?) has come cloaked in conspiracy, draped in deception, immersed in ineptitude and shrouded in subterfuge.
We’ve been misled. We’ve been insulted. We’ve been treated as ignorant, uninformed rubes who cannot possibly understand what’s best for our airport. We’ve been dismissed and derided by the mayor and the supercilious “we know better than you” City Hall co-conspirators.
On that basis alone, is the single terminal plan worthy of a yes vote on Tuesday?
Joseph Lathrop is a 1981 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Now retired, he is married with a nine year old son and has enjoyed a varied carrier, including service as senior editor for a Fortune 500 firm and as a freelance writer.