New Jack City: KCI—Love it or Leave it

airplane-560When it comes to the future of the Kansas City International Airport (KCI), I’ve mostly kept my opinions to myself…
But with all of the ridiculous claims being made by both sides of the controversial airport issue, it’s time for me jump into the fray and straighten some of you guys out.

Past time, actually.

Claims like that nearby airports like Branson and Wichita are trying to lure carriers away from Kansas City are asinine. Sure they’ve been able to attract discounters like AirTran (soon to merge into Southwest) and Frontier to serve their particular markets.

But do you know why—and at what cost?

It’s because those smaller cities and/or their chambers of commerce have guaranteed a profit to those carriers.

In other words, if the local boardings and fares bottom lines don’t stay in the black, the local communities have to make up the differences.

And by the way, neither one of those carriers have pulled out of MCI.

crowded-airportAnother claim that we have got the easiest airport for travelers certainly can be challenged.

Ever take trip via Burbank’s (Bob Hope-BUR) airport? That’s a case of functional ease on display.

As for KCI, pity the family that’s coming here on an express flight from somewhere in Kansas, Missouri or Nebraska and connecting in Kansas City.

Let’s say their final destination is Cancun from our international airport. They may arimagesrivive at one terminal where they’ll have to first claim their luggage, then ride a bus to terminal C, where they have to re-check their bags and go through security AGAIN in order to get on Frontier’s non-stop flight to the Mexican resort.

And their return trip is even more fun!

They’ll claim their luggage in (international) terminal C and go through customs. Then they have to take a bus to the terminal of their connecting airline and re-check their luggage. And finally, they must go through security AGAIN.

What do you mean, everything is up to date in Kansas City?

And while there are numerous carriers that once served KCI, most of them are mere memories today.

The list goes on;  Eastern, Midway, Pan Am, Vanguard, TWA, Braniff, Ozark, Air Midwest, Midwest Express and America West…just to name a few.

BTW,America West actually bought out bankrupt USAirways and kept the latter name.

We have also served as a hub airport off and on through the years. Like with Braniff and our two defunct hometown airlines, TWA and Vanguard.

Will we ever be a hub again?

Not likely.

Kansas City just isn’t large enough of a market to qualify these days.

KCI is no JFK, ORD, DFW, DEN or even STL—not to mention that the nation’s major airline count has shrunk severely.

And it’s not over yet!

airplane_robert_hays_ted_striker_sweating_profuselyWill we ever be able to attract a new carrier to KCI?

The chances are definitely better.

If I were a gambling person, my best bet would be for JetBlue to become such a new entrant at KCI. Just as Alaskan Air and Air Canada did with limited service. What I don’t see is Virgin America or Spirit showing up here anytime soon.

Finally, look at what’s transpired in the airline industry since KCI received its last makeover.

*** United took over Continental.
*** Delta bought Northwest.
*** Southwest aquired AirTran (and is in the process of merging it into the Southwest brand.)
*** USAirways is picking up American and will merge it into one carrier using the heritage American name.

Frontier Airlines? Who knows what the future holds for them.

I predict that their current ownership—Republic Airlines-–will cut them lose, sooner rather than later.

So in just the past few years, four major carriers serving KCI have gone away—or soon will. Consolidation is the name of the game today.

And on top of that, KCI is one of just a handful of airports in the nation where the TSA has farmed out its security functions to a private screening contractor.

Kansas City’s independent screening contract is currently held by FirstLine Transportation Security, Inc.

What does it all mean?

Ma_and_Pa_KettleI sure don’t have all the answers, but my take on the situation is that the current state of affairs at KCI is grossly behind the times and ALSO in need of consolidation.

That’s not to say I’m totally agreeing with the concept of a whole NEW airport. But the current under served three terminal setup is outdated and in need of major changes for all parties.
Agree or disagree, that’s the way I’m seeing KCI today.
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27 Responses to New Jack City: KCI—Love it or Leave it

  1. the dude says:

    If you think by building this albatross they want to shove down our throats that we might be a hub for an airline you must be huffing the Harley paint thinner.

  2. Chris Lyon says:

    I hear there is a total of 30 gates used by the airlines. Why don’t they consolidate down to one off the existing terminals? Each terminal has 30 gates.

    • Stephen says:

      Even though the gates are numbered 30 per terminal, Terminal A has 25, B has 19, and C has 22. Nevertheless, surely the Terminal C ghost town could be merged away, and some of the benefits of consolidation could be realized at a cost savings.

  3. chuck says:

    “Airplane”, one of the funniest movies ever. 🙂

    Roger Murdock: Flight 2-0-9’er, you are cleared for take-off.

    Captain Oveur: Roger!

    Roger Murdock: Huh?

    Tower voice: L.A. departure frequency, 123 point 9’er.

    Captain Oveur: Roger!

    Roger Murdock: Huh?

    Victor Basta: Request vector, over.

    Captain Oveur: What?

    Tower voice: Flight 2-0-9’er cleared for vector 324.

    Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.

    Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?

    Tower voice: Tower’s radio clearance, over!

    Captain Oveur: That’s Clarence Oveur. Over.

    Tower voice: Over.

    Captain Oveur: Roger.

    Roger Murdock: Huh?

    Tower voice: Roger, over!

    Roger Murdock: What?

    Captain Oveur: Huh?

    Victor Basta: Who?

    I’m still LMAO.

  4. mike says:

    The same people who said we would get an NBA team when we built the Sprint center think a new airport would bring back all these major carriers. Follow the money. I would not be surprised if the people pushing this benefit in some way from the potential construction contracts.

    • the dude says:

      UH, DUH.
      The only reason these leeches push for unwarranted and unnecessary projects like these is to feed at the pork trough.

    • admin says:

      Don’t fault the people who stand to benefit, they will always be there, always have. Think of it as a necessary evil for progress.

      What Jack is saying is that there are damn few carriers remaining to today to be had. And that number is shrinking and will continue to shrink. So the argument that we will get more with a new airport really doesn’t hold water.

      Look at all the ones he named that are no longer with us.

      However, his example of the difficulties of travelers connecting at KCI speaks volumes. And a single terminal plan will eliminate all of that.

      He also doesn’t think that going with a single terminal will make things infinitely more difficult on locals who praise KCI’s often ease of ingress and egress.

      Seriously though, if we worried to extremes about companies making money on new construction, we’d be living in the 1940s.

      • mike says:

        I’m just not sure the benefits of this outweigh the costs, except for the very few that directly profit from it.

        • admin says:

          Well, as a taxpayer, fuggedaboudit!

          The airlines and travelers are picking up the tab.

          That point seems to keep getting lost.

          Just relax and enjoy

          • the dude says:

            Hearne, that is stupid advice when you recommend the wasting of taxpayers dollars on a frivilous and wasteful project. If we are in such desperate need of a totally new airport why did they waste 200+ million of the taxpayers money a few years ago to do a bunch of upgrades and improvements.

            KC is seriously suffering from monorail fever here. If you don’t understand the reference watch the Simpsons episode to get a clue.

            This, my friends, is a waste of money.

          • mike says:

            If they ever do build a new airport, they should relocate it where you don’t have to drive half way to St. Joe to get to it. Otherwise, it is just a big waste of money that will fail to deliver on it’s promises like almost every other project we have been sold on the last 25 years. Meanwhile, our water mains, sewers, roads and bridges are falling apart.

  5. jon says:

    Finally a straight forward story on KCI. Sure beats the local newspaper’s coverage of the mess.

  6. paulwilsonkc says:

    KC is never going to be a hub for any airline that matters. Take all that proposed cash and spend it downtown! Turn Wheeler into what it should have been, an airport that would truly service KC, convenient, close to home, all the room anyone needs. Level KCI and make it a “intermodal” for air freight!

    • Hot Carl says:

      Wheeler was one of the most dangerous airports in the nation. I’d love to have it open again but that’s a pipe dream for any number of reasons.

      • admin says:

        I don’t know how truly hot Carl is, but he’s right on top of this one.

        How quickly some of us forget

    • chuck says:

      I did some work in the BMA building a couple of years ago, it is now condos or something.

      The building has a very interesting history and was supposed to be one of two built exactly the same. I think it was 920 ft with a 10 inch sway. The upper two floors had a spiral staircase flown to the top by helecopter for installation.
      Really cool, bunch of other stuff, but my point is, that I heard on the jog , that some pilots in the old days would refuse to fly into KC because of the dramatic drop needed right after clearing the BMA building.

      I guess when the weather was bad it could get really dicey.

      I only flew out of the old airport once, in 69 when I left for the service. The old airport is still pretty cool, but probably not a viable option for anything other than jets owned by the 1%.


    • admin says:

      They can’t take that cash and spend it somewhere else, Sir Paul, because the only way the cash comes in is if they build an airport and the users then pay for it in fees.

      Come on, man.

      This isn’t that hard to comprehend. Is it?

      • the dude says:

        So your theory is to waste money for wasting money’s sake?
        Nice reasoning there.

        This is a part of why this country is in the mess we are in now, not enough people questioning money being wasted on crap when the money could go to needed projects.

  7. paulwilsonkc says:

    Chuck, Hot, I did most all my “touch and goes” for my flight training at Wheeler. I kept my plane at JoCo Executive, but flew in and out of there BECAUSE of the challenge. I also have about 20 hours in a 35A Lear out of there. Huge difference in that ride and my Piper 140! I can’t imagine landing a big jet there, but they do it all the time. I watched Air Force One come and go from there; better pilots than I!!!

  8. jack p. says:

    I was on a Frontier flight out of the old downtown airport that had to abort takeoff. Thought we’d go right through the fence. Then into the dam and into the river.
    Scariest flight experience of my life.
    At least the runways are long at KCI with nothing in their way in case of an overrun.

  9. Rainbow Man says:

    This was one of the best takes on the airport situation I have read yet.

  10. Shawnee Frequent Flyer says:

    I use KCI frequently. I am fortunate that I fly United mor often than not, which recently moved into the former Midwest Airlines space which has a generally short security line and marginally improved food and somewhat larger restrooms behind security. But I fly out of each terminal.

    Our security can take a long time. YES! Sure when it is fast, it is fast; but that is true elsewhere too. Been at US Airways at 5:15am or 6:00pm? Been at southwest at 6:30am? I have almost missed flights due to slow, long lines. On a Sunday afternoon last year, I dropped off my parents for a Southwest flight 2 hours early, and they nearly missed their flight. When more than a few flights leave at the same time, we have long lines, longer in time than many other airports, and other airports have times when their lines are short.

    As a resident, I don’t rely on amenities as much as visitors, but there are days when a flight is delayed and it is a long sad camp at the gate. Or if I did not get something to eat before leaving for the airport. It is awful for visitors, for whom most hotels don’t serve breakfast before 6:00am. In most cities, no problem, just get to the airport. Problem here. No one can argue we have minimal services behind security, cramped gates, and no easy way to fix it.. What we did 10 years ago tweaked what we had to make it post 9/11 serviceable, and fix then 30 year old infrastructure that needed fixing.

    There are many comparable airports in passenger traffic that are as easy, or easier, to use than KCI and are better at meeting passenger needs. Orange County CA, San Jose CA, Portland OR, Hartford CT, San Diego, Albuquerque, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, Dallas Love, Boise, Spokane. I haven’t been to Sacramento, Indy or Raleigh, but they seem similar to Portland on paper.

    DFW copied KCI, but modified the design before opening to address the shortcomings we have, and has spent and will spend billions. Things change in 40 years.

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