Let’s Not Follow Cincinnati’s Lead On Airports
The Kansas City Business Journal recently published an article about the effort to tear down Kansas City International Airport (MCI) and rebuild it as a single terminal. In the piece, Austin Alonzo relies on Mark Perryman, the COO of Landrum & Brown Inc., “a Cincinnati airport consulting firm that helped the Kansas City Aviation Department develop the single-terminal proposal.” As expected, the firm that earns money building new airports thinks that Kansas City should build a new airport. According to Perryman, at least one business picked up and left Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved to Charlotte, N.C., because the latter had a new airport.
Perryman said that declining traffic and air service out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (Code: CVG) and recent upgrades at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (Code: CLT) played a role in Chiquita’s relocation in 2011, which took several hundred white-collar jobs with it.
Aside from relying on Perryman, Alonzo quoted some leaders of economic development groups, who, as can be expected, support building a new airport. But not all is well at Cincinnati’s airport since its $500 million renovation in 1994. According to the Manhattan Institute of New York’s City Journal:
You can see those extra charges reflected in the sky-high fares at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, a Delta hub and winner of the top spot in Forbes’s 2009 list of “rip-off airports.” Last year, an average ticket out of the airport cost $526, compared with $372 in nearby Dayton, Ohio, and $387 in Indianapolis. International flights averaged $1,408, 36 percent more than the national average. Is the airport really a reason to relocate to the area, as businesses often claim? The Cincinnati Business Courier found that three-quarters of the Cincinnati firms it surveyed were flying employees out of the Dayton airport, more than an hour away by car. “Unless you’re suffering from delusion, you realize that the Cincinnati airport is now really in Dayton,” aviation expert Darryl Jenkins told the Cincinnati Enquirer. Similarly, a 2006 study found that nearly one-fifth of local fliers drove to other airports to avoid the hub’s high prices. Delta is now reducing flights from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, and passenger traffic at the airport is down 65 percent since 2005.
So there you have it. The cost of building a new airport has contributed to making travel to and from there more expensive, so travelers seek other venues in neighboring cities. A new airport does not attract business, as proponents claim — quite the opposite. (Proponents of building a new terminal at MCI already complain about losing market share to neighboring airports. This would only make it worse.) Remember, Chiquita left Cincinnati seven years after their airport renovation and partly because of reduced air service.
Now Cincinnati airport consultants want to do to Kansas City what has been done to Cincinnati.