How a Cheap Airport Helps Kansas City
The Kansas City Business Journal just published some good news for Kansas City:
On Tuesday, Allegiant Air announced it will start nonstop service from Kansas City to Orlando, Southwest Florida and Tampa in mid-November. The Las Vegas–based low-cost airline is operated by Allegiant Travel Co.
In an interview on KMBZ radio, Bill Grady asked airport administrator Mark VanLoh if this new service announcement raised questions about the real need for a new terminal. Mr. VanLoh replied, “I don’t see how the two are connected.”
In fact, the two are very much connected.
The news of Allegiant Air is not only good news in and of itself, but it demonstrates exactly why Kansas Citians ought to be skeptical of taking on an unnecessarily large expense at the airport. Allegiant Air is a “low-cost” airline. According the The Memphis Business Journal:
Allegiant often serves smaller markets like Orlando-Sanford International Airport instead of Orlando International Airport to avoid pricey landing fees.
Advocates of spending a great deal of money at the airport tell us that only travelers and airlines will pay the price. That is largely true. They also tell us that the prices airlines pay to serve an airport have little to do with ticket price; that may also be true. But pricey landing fees of the type that would follow an expensive rebuild or remodel may chase away airlines like Allegiant. And they would be a disincentive for bigger airlines like Southwest, too. A Southwest vice president said as much to the airport advisory group, “Higher costs can lead to less service, not more.” They have left other airports over similar price increases.
If Southwest wants to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into a new KCI, that might be welcome. But if improvements require issuing bonds resulting in higher fees to airlines, city leaders should think twice. A shiny new airport is of no use if airlines choose not to service it.