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You Need a New Airport Kansas City, Get Over It.

You Need A New Airport Kansas City. Get Over It.

I’ve been in Kansas City for just over a month. While I didn’t arrive by plane this time, all the other times I’ve come and gone from KC, have been through the Kansas City International Airport.

Only once have I driven myself to said airport. I’ve parked at the B-11 post, the one that gives props to the Jazz Museum, in the economy lot. I’ve looked out at the airport on I-29 a mile before I could reach it and wondered why I couldn’t just drive up from that first vantage point. I’ve told myself that I’d rather pay $27 for four days of travel instead of just one.

I like to get to the airport early. I tend to carry a lot of things, but I’ve reduced them down. Even with the reduction, I sometimes forget to charge my phone or I don’t have time to eat or I have something that just doesn’t fit well into my purse.

Or, maybe I did everything right and I got to the airport on time. Because I spent 45 minutes getting there from Midtown, by car, I didn’t have time to check and see that my plane was delayed by an hour. Thankfully, I checked the screen before I hit security, but how would I know that the Pig and Pickle would have fed me ok? And that’s only for that one gate in Terminal B going to DC. The gate I use to fly to Charlotte is even less inviting and just as restricting.

Oh the horror if I’d ridden the bus out and learned I’d still have to find a way to pass two more hours of time.

You may think this is whiny. That I don’t get it. After all, I’m new. I shouldn’t expect shiny newfangled things in Kansas City. That’s what other cities do, even though we want to be other cities sometimes.

People. The Piedmont Triad International Airport, my home airport in Greensboro, is small. It doesn’t have a lot past security. But we have managed to lower the lights, put in at least a reasonably priced bar, newsstand and clean, normal sized bathroom past our security gate. And before security, a nice small mall of sorts, representing our proud North Carolinianess, our Natty Greens beer (They’re our Boulevard) and some nice rocking chairs. You know I love my airport rocking chairs.

When I go to Charlotte and Raleigh, I appreciate their toys. But 9 times out of 10 I’m going out of the same gate and that gate only has limited things. But I only hang out at the gate if I think my flight is coming soon. Except at MCI. There, I’d rather have the security chore done.

However, to avoid being one of those people, who complain without actions, this is what I think a new MCI should do:

Be a masterpiece of what this city is. Make it look like the Plaza or Union Station on the outside. If we are going to spend the money, create a modern/classic airport blend that will get people and the airlines to want to be based here.  (and their favorite airline will want to come here)

One security line. Or maybe four like Charlotte, but easy access to all gates no matter what line.

Clean, spacious restrooms. Remember, it’s me and my carry-on and we need room. I’d also like to only have to deal with my own human waste, thank you very much.

A food option, a shopping option and maybe even a spa option with easy access to each gate. If you travel often, you know the spa option’s not so luxurious. Get on a plane after you’ve been massaged and imbibed and you don’t hate air travel as much.

A plane train. Ok, maybe not so much, but ATL is not half the crazy airport it could be thanks to its train and good wayfinding signs.

So that’s it KC. We need a new airport. I hope the city doesn’t mess it up too, but let’s just pray hard that they don’t and we can all be both proud of our airport and know that we won’t lose money in the process.

And remember, people like me, the transplants and frequent travelers, will pay it off by using it over time.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Melanie Archer

    Family in Missouri, and me elsewhere, means I fly into MCI infrequently enough to notice even small changes. When I was last there in 2013, the place looked half shut down! Where was everybody?!

    Seriously, all the fixes you recommend are excellent and long overdue.

    • kristenej

      Thanks. You should feel welcome at travel terminals (rail, bus or air). Not what some of these places are trying to get away with.

    • JimmyO

      KCI is either overcrowded within the gate area, or looks like the zombie apocalypse took place outside the gate. And odly, I rarely see any other aircraft moving (or many sitting at gates) when I fly in. You’d think there would be more flights to a city of over 2 million.

  • ndw_dc

    Kristen,

    I am a native of Kansas City (long time spent in DC, now in Denver). I agree that MCI is generally kind of cruddy. BUT … I have to completely disagree about having one security line. Even on extremely busy days, you can count on no more than 10 minutes or so in the security lines. Compare this to Dulles or BWI or most major city airports where you could easily be waiting for 45-minutes to an hour just to get through security.

    Along with multiple security lines, one of the only few advantages MCI has over other airports are multiple terminals, all with their own dedicated entrance and parking infrastructure. While multiple terminals are clearly a hassle in some areas (adding time for the parking and rental car shuttle routes, etc.), they make it pretty dang easy when picking up arrivals and using short-term parking.

    But other than that … MCI is admittedly pretty bad. Horrible and oppressive brutalist architecture, making it always dark and dreary on the inside? Check. Completely inaccessible by transit? Check. Outrageously far from civilization (we’re talking an easy 45 minute drive for people living within most of the KC metro)? Check. Horrible dining options for the most part? Check. And so on and so on. I was born and raised in KC and freely admit the airport sucks.

    • kristenej

      appprove

  • SantaBarbarian4Q2

    Kristen,

    This is a nice piece and I wanted to add my perspective, having flown via MCI recently several times after a 10 year hiatus.
    I fly about 250,000 miles a year and have transited literally every major airport in the country in the last 24 months.

    I’m genuinely surprised that MCI scores so high in surveys in ‘satisfaction’ surveys, given what a hot mess it really is. Designed roughly in the same timeframe as DFW, somehow Kansas City has failed to implement the dozens of incremental improvements that DFW has over the years:
    1) efficient ‘air side’ transit between gates
    2) airside amenities
    3) space for enhanced security
    4) space for TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry program lines
    5) mass-transit to the city center and links to intermodal (AMTRAK) services
    6) separation of arrivals and departures

    It’s a fine airport for non-connecting passengers and point-to-point service (which, I suppose is why the locals like it just the way it is), but it’s an airport out of synch with the modern needs and prospective growth. If the Airport Commission and City are happy with an airport that works fine at the 10M passenger level– well, great, save your billion tax dollars and spend it on a replacement for Arrowhead instead.

    But, without changes it’s really a sorry place to get stuck for a few hours.

    • kristenej

      It is and it’s a shame, especially since DFW is essentially the same airport, but has figured it out.

  • JimmyO

    Agreed. KCI is a horrible airport. I have to fly there 3 or 4 times per year. The last time, my flight was delayed. I had to sit on the floor for at least an hour because I was already inside the “cage” of a gate, past security. And for some reason, the little concession stand in there was closed at 6:30 p.m. So just sit there and stare…

    Another time this year, I needed to eat dinner before my flight. There were only 2 restaurants to choose from, both being crappy bar food. Nothing healthy at all. And you can’t tell how far it is to the nearest restaurant due to the curve of the terminal. Plus, you have to eat prior to going through security.

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