KCI talks going well, experts report

Photo courtesy KCI.

Photo courtesy KCI.

Negotiations on improvements to KCI are going well and could become a national model, an airlines executive and aviation consultant reported Thursday.

The city initiated the two-year process after a citizen study group recommended building a new single-terminal airport.

The intense ongoing negotiations with airlines on the future of the airport they use could become a national model, the experts reported to the council transportation committee.

“Everyone is looking at KCI to see how this is going to work,” said Steve Sisneros, a director with Southwest Airlines. “If it works at KCI it will set a model to use elsewhere.”

Sheri Ernico, a director with LeighFisher, a consultant on the project, called the effort “unprecedented.”

She said the airlines have shared key proprietary information with consultants and meetings have gone on for seven months.

The group is to make its recommendations by May 1, 2016.

Sisneros said major goals are working toward customer convenience and an affordable solution.

Critics of replacing the airport that is more than four decades old have praised its convenience and attacked the cost of replacing it.

Ernico said that it is important to remember that airports in this country are a closed system, and local general tax revenues do not go into them and money airports generate must be spent on the airports.

Every airline ticket includes a user fee that goes into a federal trust fund that provides about $3.3 billion a year to go into airport development on a competitive basis.

Ernico said other cities chase those funds and “it behooves you to compete for that pool of money.”

Critics have said a new airport could cost taxpayers too much – money that could be better spent for other things.

Councilman Jermaine Reed said of airport financing, “that is one of the missing pieces that folks just don’t get.”

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