Carrie Rengers

Chamber CEO advocates – mostly in jest – that KC close its airport

In case it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Chamber president and CEO Gary Plummer is more than a little pro Wichita.
In case it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Chamber president and CEO Gary Plummer is more than a little pro Wichita. Courtesy photo

Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Gary Plummer is so pro Wichita and the aviation business here, he’s advocating that Kansas City shut down its airport.

The Chamber and the Wichita Aero Club sponsored a joint meeting Thursday with Southwest Airlines executives to discuss a number of issues.

Plummer was moderating a Q&A when a Kansas City businessman asked a Southwest executive a question about the Kansas City airport.

“The way he posed it was, ‘We are trying to decide whether to remodel it or build a new one and wondered what your opinion would be,’” Plummer says.

“I think before the Southwest guy could even respond … I said, ‘Close it!’”

Audience members laughed at first then heartily applauded.

“The Southwest guy immediately said, ‘That’s not the official position of Southwest Airlines,’” Plummer says.

“I think everybody understood it was meant to be humorous.”

There was perhaps a tinge of seriousness, too.

Just as Jan Brady used to complain that everything was about “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” Wichita business leaders sometimes get a little fatigued of Kansas City, especially when its airport attracts customers away from Wichita’s.

“The reason we were there was because it’s such a competitive environment in air service,” Plummer says. “It just seemed a little bit ironic that the subject switched to Kansas City.”

The Kansas City businessman “wanted to talk about the Kansas City airport, which was not on our agenda.”

Still, Plummer says he was simply trying to be funny and felt bad enough about it that he apologized to the businessman for what he calls his “smart-aleck remark.”

“Sometimes you just have a knee-jerk reaction,” Plummer says, “and unfortunately this time I just happened to have a microphone in my hand.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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