Plenty of local residents think that Kansas City International Airport is fabulously convenient, especially compared with larger airports.
Research firm J.D. Power & Associates agreed - at least they did in 2010, when they festooned KCI with their highest ranking for passenger satisfaction among medium-sized airports, in part due to its convenience at the check-in counter and security checkpoints.
Why, then, do local officials take such a dim view of KCI's accessibility?
"Fly out midmorning," suggests Kansas City aviation director Mark VanLoh. "That's the best time to go. But for the business travelers who have to go early, they know the delays and confusion we have."
Well, if that's true, then what explains the J.D. Power distinction, which is still trumpeted on the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association's website?
VanLoh says he's not sure what methodology J.D. Power used to arrive at their conclusion, but it didn't appear to rely on much input from aviation officials.
But what's more, according to VanLoh, is J.D. Power wanted KCI to pony up $90,000 to trumpet the news of its high satisfaction ranking. In other words, it struck VanLoh as pay-to-play.
"I'm not going to pay for an award," VanLoh tells The Pitch.
John Tews, a spokesman for J.D. Power, tells The Pitch that companies or organizations receiving high awards from their research are asked to pay to subsidize costs of the award and to protect against the abuse of inaccurately marketing the award.
"We have a licensing arrangement," Tews says. "There is a fee associated with that."
While VanLoh didn't want to send a check J.D. Power's way, he did want the positive exposure. So he bounce-passed the news of J.D. Power's award, which is still listed in a press release on the company's website, to The Kansas City Star.
J.D. Power says on its website that no advertising or promotional use of its awards can be done without their permission, and presumably a big payday, but the Star is obviously not beholden to that, so they published the news.
Clever move by VanLoh, who still keeps the J.D. Power plaque commemorating KCI's passenger satisfaction on display at the Kansas City Aviation Department's offices just past the reception desk.
For more coverage of KCI and its migration toward a $1.2 billion single-terminal design, read this week's cover story.