Southwest Airlines topic of Wichita Eagle article


Sunday’s Wichita Eagle carried a story featuring local elected officials’ reaction to the possibility that Southwest Airlines would start service to Wichita. (City, county officials cautiously weigh subsidy for Southwest Airlines, May 30, 2010)

A source of controversy is over the payments of public funds that are thought to be necessary to acquire the service. The Eagle article quotes an unnamed source as saying it would take about $3 million in public funds to “get the service up and running.” It is not disclosed whether this is a one-time requirement, or if this is $3 million per year for some specific period, or perhaps forever.

Wichitans may want to remember that the subsidy paid to AirTran started small and was promoted as a temporary measure until the airline could establish itself in Wichita. The program, however, has grown to a combined $7 million annual payment from the state, county, and city. It seems unlikely that this number will ever drop.

At one time Wichita was a city known for its entrepreneurs. But recently the New York Times noted that Wichita is known as a “pioneer in the business of paying airlines to continue service.”

An interesting tidbit in the Eagle story is Wichita City Council Member Sue Schlapp making a distinction between a “subsidy” and an “incentive.” What we offer to Southwest would be an incentive, not a subsidy, she said.

The overall tone of the article is that Wichita City Council Members and Sedgwick County Commissioners are making a show of concern, wanting to be “realistic,” desiring more details and something “reasonable and feasible.”

Despite this show of concern and prudence, if this matter comes before these bodies, I’ll be surprised if even one member votes against it.

One thing this article did not mention is that Charleston, South Carolina was able to lure Southwest without having to pay a subsidy.

By way of comparison, the Wichita metropolitan area population is 612,683 (2009 estimate), while the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, metropolitan area populations is 659,191. In 2008, there were 780,756 enplanements at the Wichita airport, while there were 1,174,667 at the Charleston airport.

According to reports, the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates a $139 million economic impact with the arrival of Southwest. An economic impact analysis has been prepared for the City of Wichita, but Wichita officials will not release it, citing an exception in the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA).


3 responses to “Southwest Airlines topic of Wichita Eagle article”

  1. CarlosMayans

    In my opinion the contract for $3 million dollars was an incentive (something that incites or has a tendency to incite action) by Mayor Knight in 2002 to help Airtran get established in this market and strive for profitability. The plan was to drive the business community to use Airtran and a coordinator was even hired for such purposes. The Chamber and the business community who had championed the need for lower airfares never really drove their business through Airtran, consequently, the City of Wichita has ended up providing a subsidy (a grant given to a company to assist an enterprise) which has ballooned to more than twice the original incentive. Councilwoman Sue Schlapp should know better.

  2. C.W.Showalter RMS

    I find it odd that any large business would need start up money from anyone. A start up with no start up never starts. It stays a dream. A Wal-mart needs start up money or tax breaks? Not likely. For 670,000, I could build a micropower plant that is clean right out of the box and be carbon zero in less then five years. Place 16 people into high paying jobs, with 33 area sustaining jobs. Could make power 24/7 for 7200 homes at a discount price for a small town. Could restart the same kind of business 8 years down the road for another 16 people at the cost of the same start up only from the money banked from the first plant. How is this hard to put your head around? Get a guaranteed loan from the USDA at around 4%. Don’t give money to companies that are standing, take a dream out there and stand it up. Who knows where it will take you. I could re-power Greensburg Kansas easy and clean with a power cost of .04 cents per KWH not the BS green price they pay. Push what you know and what works. America is a dream and a fact. Dream alittle more. A company that size that wants to come in already knows that money is to be made. Why pay them more money, that they know will just be free money. Give them a tax break but cash? No way.

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