This city's stricken main airport is now poised to begin rebuilding passenger flight schedules and thereby enhance cargo deliveries as well.
City officials reached a legal agreement this week that cleared the way for them to reclaim 29 crucial airplane positions at Kansas City International Airport, most of them shut down since last fall's failure of Braniff Inc., the passenger airline.Local officials said they expected other airlines to start snapping up some of the additional space immediately.
Although air cargo sources here say Braniff was not a major player in freight hauling, most agree additional flights in and out of KCI will allow more flexibility, especially in last-minute shipments that could ride in a passenger plane belly.
Nearly all the Braniff gates remained closed for most of the past year as former owners of the airline contested city efforts to market the gates before they had yielded lease control.
They sued the city, which in turn countersued.
Last week, however, the owners agreed to relinquish their gate rights, after intervention by Sen. Jack Danforth, R-Mo.
Then the two sides hammered out details of the agreement, which they completed Tuesday.
Now, the deal awaits a judge's final approval before the gates go back to the city.
John G. Duba, acting city aviation director, said he expected airlines to move quickly once the judge OKs the deal.
"My hunch is that a third of the gates could be open in the near future," he said.
Mr. Duba explained that four of the 29 gates have been used by two airlines that were subleasing from Braniff, but the city did not have control of them and would probably negotiate new leases.
There was speculation that those two, America West Airlines and Air Midwest, might be interested in expanding into more of the airport.
USAir is another carrier reportedly interested in increasing operations here, but Mr. Duba said others are probably waiting for the judge's final order. "Once that happens, I think we'll see action from a number of airlines," he said.
Kansas City is reviewing its various facilities as well as KCI to see whether it can significantly expand air cargo services and perhaps attract a cargo hub.
That effort is separate from the issue of the Braniff gates, but many area business leaders have complained that acquiring the closed gates and boosting flights is crucial to area commerce.
Local frustration with the unused airport facilities contributed to the recent resignation of Delbert Karmeier, the city's long-time aviation director.