(Cross posted at http://IslandRepublican.blogspot.com/)
King County Executive Ron Sims has been negotiating with Southwest Airlines about using King County Airport, also known as Boeing Field, as its Seattle base. Using regional airports to lower its costs has been a standard business approach for Southwest. It then passes these savings onto its customers, which has made air travel more affordable. The negotiations have created consternation from the Port of Seattle, the operator of Sea-Tac Airport, and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Southwest has explained that the landing cost at Sea-Tac is excessive compared to other airports throughout the country. The landing cost is charged by the airport for each passenger on every flight. Since this information has become public, the 2009 projected landing costs at Sea-Tac have decreased from $25 per passenger to $14.15 per passenger. Southwest expects the landing costs at Boeing Field to be less than $5 per passenger. If Alaska Airlines and Horizon join Southwest at Boeing Field, the landing cost could be under $3 per passenger.
The Port of Seattle and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce are concerned that the two airports will be competing against each other. The Seattle Chamber of Commerce has stated, “The proposal also ignores a comprehensive aviation plan for our region, jeopardizes international air connections to important markets in Asia and Europe, and has negative impacts on service to communities throughout Washington State.” Neither the Seattle Chamber of Commerce nor the Port of Seattle has commented on the savings our region will gain by this competition. If businesses and individuals who fly can save over $250 million in airfares over a 10 year period, these funds are available to grow our businesses and communities, not ‘invest” in “airport facilities”.
I find it unusual that a liberal Democrat like Ron Sims is willing to buck the system and create competition within a governmental monopoly while the Seattle “business” community wants to stifle competition. While I am uncertain what the right answer is to the airport issue, I believe we need to perform the correct economic analysis of Southwest’s proposal. The needs of our entire community must be considered, not just “governmental” entities.
I would like to thank Ron Sims for bringing this important discussion to the public.