On February 28, Kansas City will unveil its brand new airport terminal, a 1.1 million-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that promises to provide a better experience for travelers. That’s good news for the area’s 2.1 million residents as well as travelers from western Missouri and eastern Kansas.
The first flight into the terminal is expected around sunrise after an overnight marathon-like effort involving hundreds of workers moving operations from the old terminal. Even a new website has launched at flyKC.com.
Metro Voice had the opportunity to explore the vast structure before it officially opens.
Our impression? It puts Kansas City prominently at the front of the nation’s best airports and promises to bring more airlines and expanded routes to the benefit of travelers and the local economy.
Out with the old
The new terminal replaces a beloved three-ring design that was ahead of its time when it opened in 1972. The old airport terminal was known for car-to-gate convenience that allowed travelers to exit vehicles and be at their gate within 50 feet. That bygone area ended after the attacks on 9/11, such convenience became a liability and untenable in the current security landscape. Airlines actually reduced flights into, and out of, Kansas City because of the headache. But the new terminal retains much of that convenience.
READ: The fascinating history of aviation in Kansas City
Local leaders and officials have been closely involved in the development of the new terminal, and eagerly anticipate its opening. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas praised the new airport’s design and amenities, saying, “The new terminal is a game-changer for our city. It’s a beautiful, modern facility that will make travel more enjoyable for everyone who visits our city.”
The terminal uses over 900 windows and glass boarding bridges to bring the outside in. The entire space is flooded with light, a sharp contrast to the dark interior of the old terminal.
Size and convenience
Travelers will be shocked at the scale of the building, especially upon entering the Check-in Hall lined on the far side by each airline’s ticket agent stands. In the middle of the hall, which features smooth Missouri quarried limestone, is a centralized TSA screening area with 14 lanes to quickly allow travelers entrance to the concourses and their gate.
Exiting security, travelers are immediately in the middle of the A concourse. The area is filled with restaurants and last-minute services for travelers.
But the gargantuan size, conveniences and amenities of the new facility don’t detract from what will still be a very convenient and easily maneuverable airport experience.
The new terminal is designed to be more efficient and user-friendly than the old airport, with a single, centralized terminal that will replace the three separate terminals of the old facility. It will also offer enhanced security screening, faster baggage handling, and a variety of new dining and shopping options for travelers.
Local media outlets tested and confirm that walking from the parking garage to the farthest of its 39 gates is just 7 minutes. That can also be done using two separate “people movers,” or moving walkways. If you choose to walk while it also moves you along, it takes you across the bridge linking the two concourses quickly and makes short work of the long distance. In the middle, between the two moving walkways, is a mini-display on either side highlighting local history and the history of aviation across the metro.
Gates are easy to find.
- Gates A1-A10 | Various domestic
- Gate A12-A20 | Various domestic, international
- Gates B40-52 | Delta and United
- Gates B54-69 | Southwest
Art, food and connectivity
Above the bridge is an artwork installation that utilizes a painted surface covered with hundreds of white straps below. As you walk or use the moving walkway, the images change above.
Speaking of art, the city used its art budget to fill the Check-in Hall, concourses and each gate with original, locally-made artwork. In fact, every gate has one or more art pieces that range from electronic to paintings and sculptures. The entrance to the terminal boasts over 1,000 hanging mobiles that move with the current of the ventilation system. In the center of Concourse A, just past the security exit, is a fountain of light mimicking Kansas City’s famous outdoor fountains, second only to Rome.
The airport has expanded its restaurant selection with 50 choices, many of them homegrown. In its Made of Kansas City Hall you find Bloom Baking Company, a popular bakery at the downtown City Market and Bo Lings. Other dining options include Martin City Brewing Company, Dunkin’, Parisi Coffee, Big Chicken, Pigwich, Buffalo State Pizza, Taste of Brazil and Salumeria Cervasi Deli. Coffee lovers can enjoy conveniently placed Messenger Coffee or several Dunkin kiosks.
One downside of the airport’s eatery options is the lack of an affordably priced and familiar choice for families with children. While $14 hamburgers and $16 BBQ entrees prevail across the concourses, you’ll not find an inexpensive McDonald’s, Pizza Hut or Culver’s alternative. For families on a budget, this oversight contradicts Kansas City and the Airport Authority’s claim of “equity.” Not every family wants to or can afford to spend $100 on a meal during a layover or departure from the new KCI.
But other features do offer convenience and value for passengers. Charging stations have been installed everywhere, from underneath seats at the gates to long bars sporting high stools and other seating areas. In addition, the gate seating areas boast much more room than the previous terminal. All the gate seats have great views of the tarmac and arriving and departing planes. The terminal also features newly upgraded wi-fi service across all areas. And it’s free, unlike many larger airports.
Nursing mothers will find easily accessible nursing rooms. Other special services include a quiet room for children or adults with special needs, play zone, USO arrivals room for the troops, and an outside area with a park-like setting to catch some sun and and animal relief corner. Need to print last-minute details of your trip? Head to the Business Center and if work (or vacation planning) is driving you crazy, there’s a sensory room to calm you down.
Luggage, restrooms and parking
One of the complaints of the old terminal was the seemingly antiquated luggage handling process. While departing passengers use the upper level of the terminal, arrivals will get their luggage on the lower level with a new baggage system that handles over 3,000 pieces per hour. This allows travelers to quickly and easily identify and retrieve their bags to a faster exit of the airport.
Need to use the restroom? Gone is the single restroom at each gate at the old terminal. Restrooms are now conveniently located across both concourses. Plus, there’s no need to enter the restroom to see if a stall is open. A digital sign displays how many stalls are available in real-time.
Exiting the terminal is easy with electronic signs directing you to the correct bus to long-term and economy parking as well as the new 6,000-space parking garage across the driveway from the terminal.
Watch a virtual open house below:
“The new terminal will be a huge improvement over the old one,” said Kansas City Aviation Director Pat Klein. “It’s designed to be more efficient, with state-of-the-art technology and amenities that will make travel easier and more enjoyable for everyone.”
The terminal features solar panels, rainwater harvesting for its vast landscaping design, and energy-efficient lighting. “We wanted to make sure that the new terminal was not only functional but also environmentally friendly,” said Klein. “We’re proud to say that it’s one of the most sustainable airports in the country.”
Local business leaders are also optimistic about the impact of the new terminal on the city’s economy. “The airport is a critical gateway to our city,” said Joe Reardon, President and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. “The new terminal will help us attract more visitors, businesses, and investment to the region, which will help drive economic growth and create jobs.”
Overall, the new Kansas City airport terminal is a major development for the city, and one that local leaders are excited to see come to fruition. “This is a proud moment for our city,” said Mayor Lucas. “We can’t wait to welcome travelers to our beautiful new airport and show them what Kansas City has to offer.”
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice