Wed, May 18, 2005
City Sets Stage For Showdown With FAA
The City of Wichita has paid AirTran $7.5 million since 2002 to
fly Kansans to its Atlanta hub. Delta wants a piece of the pie and
has complained to the FAA -- sparking a letter from government
officials to city leaders calling the payments discriminatory and
threatening FAA grants to Mid-Continent Airport. Now, in their
reply to the FAA, Wichita's lawyers say paying Delta the same
subsidies "is like telling the shepherd that he must feed the wolf
so that the wolf can get bigger and stronger and slaughter more
It's the latest shot across the bow in the battle over subsidies
at Mid-Continent -- a showdown that could well end up in court.
In its reply to the FAA's April letter, Wichita officials said
they have no intention of stopping subsidies to AirTran and have no
plans to cut Delta in on the payments.
City leaders denied they've used any FAA airport funds to pay
AirTran the subsidies, saying the money came from Wichita's own
coffers instead. That sort of funding, according to the city's
letter, has already been approved by the FAA, as evidenced by a
similar controversy involving Florida's Sarasota-Manatee Airport
and its effort to attract more carriers.
Before Wichita started paying subsidies to AirTran, city leaders
wrote, Delta charged "monopolistic" prices on flights to and from
Wichita. If they're forced to pay Delta the same subsidies they pay
Delta, city officials fear Delta will use the money to drive
AirTran completely out of the market.
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