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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On KCI and Pitch Magazine's Cover Story

The Pitch Magazine is out today, as usual, and this week, their cover story is on our airport and the pros and cons of building a new, single terminal.

It's an excellent article, very comprehensive.

And as usual, the Kansas City Star got scooped.

Sometimes, occasionally, even The New York Times scoops the local paper, as they did last year on a report out of Kansas but this time, the local free paper got the better of them.

The article points out some important, if rather obvious and already-covered points about any possible new terminal:

Points the article and others of us make about our airport:

1) Airline traffic is down nationally, at least, anyway, for all airlines especially since the financial collapse of 2008. No one and nothing can or will change that;

2) Airlines are, if anything, shrinking and consolidating. There are fewer airlines, not more so expansion of any isn't on the horizon and isn't going to get more flights here;

3) Airlines, like all other businesses, want and need to keep their costs low. That just stands to reason. A new airport would, make no mistake, as the article points out, raise costs for those airlines, too. Sure, they'd pass them on to their ticket buying customers but their costs would be higher, period. As the article says:

"Costs would almost certainly increase with a new terminal — for parking, for a cup of coffee and for landing an airliner on a runway."

4) There is nothing wrong with our existing airport that can't be changed by revamping it, updating and innovating it and at far lower cost than of the 1.2 billion dollars a new airport terminal would cost. Not only that, but the updating and innovating, especially on heating and cooling, could well end up with additional savings on the facilities;

5) A little-known fact about our airport, at least to the person on the street--It has now 90 available gates for flights. We're using far fewer of those right now. With a new, very-expensive, single terminal, we would have 37 gates.  Seriously.  Yet people pushing a new terminal want to talk expansion;

6) There is even a question of whether or not Kansas City can AFFORD to pay for the new airport, let alone if it's really needed. Pitch seems to cover this, the financing aspects, very thoroughly and in all detail. They make just one great point here, as just one example:

Kansas City's finance team estimates that a single terminal could fetch 2.8 percent in interest rates. They would be lucky to find single-digit interest rates among private-equity financiers or pension funds looking to invest in municipally owned airports.
Bonds are sold to investors to drum up quick cash. The upfront money would pay for the airport's construction. Buyers would be repaid by airport revenues — from coffee, parking spaces, landing fees.
The city would not be on the hook to make up the difference if the airport didn't produce enough revenue to cover bond payments. Bondholders would be screwed on their investments, but so would the airport's reputation when it wanted to issue bonds in the future.
And federal funds? Fuggedaboudit:  "You can't put together a financing plan that's dependent on the federal government," Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte tells The Pitch.
So the very financing and affordability of a new airport is even an issue and in question, let's be clear. Not only can we possibly not afford it, it doesn't make sense to tear a working, existing one down to do so.
7) City Manager Schulte and the Airport Authority want to make more money than we do now at the airport with concessions. With the existing layout, naturally, that's not possible because everyone's corralled in the security areas, away from the restaurants, etc.
I say again, if we use Terminal B for the main security clearance area--most or all of the building--and then have walkways out to Terminals A and C, we could have the security needed for today's post-9/11 airports as well as the restaurants and added concessions.
Both problems, solved. And at far, far less cost than the 1.2 billion dollar boondoggle they want with a new, single terminal.
8) As for deicing and the drainage it needs, the article covers that very well, again, and makes clear there's no reason that can't be done at the existing airport and at far less cost. And let's face it, how many days per year is that in use? It's not a high volume of deicer since there aren't that many days per year when its called  for.
9) And finally, nearly most importantly, a new terminal categorically does not bring a new flying public to a city. To think otherwise is at least foolish if not utterly mistaken. No one flies to a city to see their new airport as I've written here before. A few architects might--might--and that's doubtful but that would be it.
So, again, kudos to Pitch Magazine for a good, comprehensive article that doesn't really take sides but just covers the issues in front of us.
Hopefully, in a couple of months or so, the Star will do an update on the subject of their own.

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