KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Knowledgeable insiders have taken vows of silence, but as likely alternatives bowed out one by one and an internet trail grew stronger, by Tuesday night all signs were pointing toward controversial low-cost air carrier Spirit Airlines becoming the newest airline to fly in and out of KCI.
Aviation and city officials are set to announce a new airline operating from KCI on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, spokespeople for Jet Blue, WestJet and Virgin America all told 41 Action News they would not be headed to KCI. Calls and answers to Spirit Airlines went unreturned.
On Tuesday afternoon, Spirit’s website allowed users to select Kansas City as a departure point or destination. A list of more than a dozen cities linked to KCI populated, including New York, Chicago, Houston and Dallas. No flights were immediately available to be selected, but the presence of KCI on the website and a list of cities to connect to strengthened the emerging consensus among travelers, airline employees and others that it would be Spirit Airlines announcing KCI service Wednesday.
Joe McBride, the airport’s spokesperson, had no comment.
Spirit Airlines, based in Florida, is known for its ultra-low base fares, sometimes as low as $20 dollars for a domestic flight. But the airline racks up charges for amenities like checked bags, infuriating some customers.
A new report found the airline had more than three times as many complaints from passengers as the next worst-performing airline, something a company spokesman attributed to “customers not fully understanding that we offer unbundled fares that let them control how much they spend," according to Reuters.
A new airline will inject new competition at KCI, where Southwest Airlines is expected to remain the largest carrier by a wide margin. It may also breathe new life into moribund corners of Terminal C, where some gates and check-in counters sit unused.
For now, Spirit remains a relatively unknown commodity among KCI fliers. Tuesday, few of those approached by 41 Action News were familiar with the carrier, but when its business model was described by a reporter, one said she’d be willing to give it a shot.
"If they ran on time and the price was right and there weren’t a lot of surprises at the end, yeah, I would definitely try it," Tamara Oberbeck said, a frequent flier.