Brownback calls for Johnson County airport to replace KCI

For about a decade, the status of the Kansas City International Airport (KCI) has been a topic of conversation. In fact, just a few weeks ago, KCI announced that they are projected to save 2.5 million dollars a year by closing Terminal A. Terminals B and C will inherit the influx of travelers. KCI has dipped in popularity. Major airlines have complained about the airport’s three-terminal system; travelers have complained about the decaying architecture from the seventies; government officials complain about the airport’s lack of sufficient revenue. City officials on both the Kansas and Missouri side have been quarreling over a solution for years, but recently Kan. Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed a plan. Brownback is hoping to build a rival airport in Johnson County, Kan.

Brownback has not said explicitly that he would like KCI to close, but he would like to create competition that, if successful, would most likely lead to the extinction of KCI. He believes that Kansas is financially equipped to handle the venture of a new metro-area airport, whereas Missouri is struggling to support the travel hub that Kansas City’s location brings. Brownback also states that the Kan. government will benefit from an airport in ways Missouri does not.

“With more than 50 percent of (KCI) passengers coming from Kansas, we are exploring the possibilities of this project,” Brownback told the “Kansas City Star.”

Another positive for Brownback would be an enormous rise in employment. Right now, roughly 60,800 people have jobs because of KCI. If the major Kansas City airport were to be in Kansas, Brownback thinks that the budget, morale and, of course, employment, would rise.

According to prominent airlines, KCI desperately needs to be renovated. In 2016, Southwest Airlines loosely offered to finance a single-terminal system at KCI, and Kansas City Officials were open to the discussion. City and airport officials see the need for change.

The “Kansas City Star” spoke with the Mayor of Kansas City, Sly James and City Manager, Troy Schulte, both of whom who would both like revamp KCI.

“KCI in its current form is an out-of-date, inefficient facility that makes for an embarrassing front door to out-of-town travelers,” said a joint statement from James and Schulte. As James and Schulte are keen to point out, an airport in Kansas would be “the biggest Border War prize of all.” The “Kansas City Star” has been following the “Border War” since Brownback was elected. According to the publication, Brownback has won several businesses and jobs from the Missouri side of Kansas City and brought them to the Kansas side. The longer Kansas City delays renovating KCI, the more plausible a rival airport in Kansas becomes.

However, it’s the people of Kansas City who remain steadfast in resistance to renovation. When Kansas City voters did not show support for the KCI renovation project, James and Schulte were forced to halt discussions about the project. Frequent visitors of the airport are upset by prospective renovations, saying that KCI is unique and stream-lined. Renovations have been stalled for years as city officials wrestle with how to please their voters, meet the needs of the city and appease the airlines that bring the most business.

An inactive team on the Missouri side of Kansas City is good news for Brownback. Most city officials in Johnson County have refused to comment on plans for an airport, and most of the plans have been kept private. It is unclear where the new airport would be located, but experts assume that the metro airport would become an extension of the two smaller airports already in Johnson County: The New Century AirCenter and Johnson County Executive Airport. These airports are used only for corporate flights.

Most experts are skeptic of Brownback’s potential new airport, and many say it won’t happen. Even major airlines like Southwest that, push for KCI to be renovated, aren’t sure that a completely new airport is the right answer. According to city and airport officials, it is projected that 2018 will be the culminating year for either a new airport, Kansas City to start renovations or KCI to begin to lose business and revenue with no alternative options. Each option will be accompanied by change in the way Kansas City travels.

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