Hurry up on that new KCI terminal
The Kansas City Star
Arrived at Kansas City International Airport in plenty of time to catch flight scheduled for a little before noon. Caught the blue bus almost immediately in long-term parking.
So far, so good.
Hopped off shuttle at Terminal C. Went inside and checked flight monitor. Flight to Newark delayed by an hour and a half.
Not good, but not awful.
Decided to grab a bite to eat, instead of waiting to get to Newark as planned. Ambled up to sandwich kiosk. Ordered the chicken pesto panini.
Sorry, the server said. Out of bread. At 11:45 a.m.? Server displayed a plastic-wrapped panini that looked like it had been around since yesterday. I declined. Husband negotiated for a bagel concoction. Kiosk also out of tomatoes.
Went off in search of other options. Deemed it too early for the Kansas City Brew Pub, by far the most appealing choice. Settled for a pasta dish from Starbucks.
Found a row of empty chairs in poorly lit terminal recess. Observed the unnatural quiet, the only sound being that of toilets flushing in a men’s room up the way.
“This is embarrassing,” I said.
“It is,” my husband agreed.
People, it is time. Kansas City has to have a modern airport terminal.
I know, I know. We love our three-terminal airport. The convenience. The manageable security lines. The hop, skip and jump from the gate to the luggage carrousels.
KCI works great when it works. It is possible, if all goes well, to waltz through security and onto your plane without ever fighting a crowd or waiting in a line.
But if there is a glitch, a delayed flight, getting stuck in the Kansas City airport is a wretched experience.
“Kansas Citians for the most part don’t want a change,” said Joe McBride, the city’s aviation spokesman. “Then they have a delay, and people start to get what out-of-towners are saying.”
And what are they saying? Comments on Twitter offer a glimpse:
“I have a new least favorite airport. Congrats, Kansas City!”
“Wayne airport (Detroit) actually is a decent one to be stuck in. Could be worse, you could be stuck in Kansas City.
“Dang! Flight delayed! Like really delayed at the worst airport in America! Kansas City, MO! Humph!”
Passengers stuck at KCI must either bide their time in claustrophobic gate areas with limited food options and rest room availability, or leave and face the prospect of returning through security checkpoints.
And it’s not like the airport has much to offer outside of security. Terminal B, with the Southwest Airlines connections, has some interesting restaurant choices and is adding some more. But Terminal C is a virtual wasteland and Terminal A isn’t much better. All three terminals have a dearth of shopping and an atmosphere ranging from sterile to dismal.
But so what, right? Why should we care what out-of-towners think? We love KCI.
Fellow Kansas Citians, it is not all about us.
We’re in a dogfight for jobs here. Believe me, we do not want some corporate executive waiting out a prolonged flight delay in Terminal C.
Aviation director Mark VanLoh has cited multiple other reasons for why a KCI needs a new, single terminal.
The airlines demand it; they are dropping flights and routes from KCI because the configuration of the terminals doesn’t work for them. Multiple security checkpoints require KCI to have hundreds more screeners than much larger airports. The aviation department spends too much on upkeep of underused terminal space.
Last week, VanLoh proposed that Kansas City could save time and money by building a new terminal at the site of the current Terminal A. If all went well, a sparkling new terminal with all the modern conveniences could be up and running within five years, he said. It would be paid for with aviation and passenger fees, not city tax dollars.
Go for it, by all means. The sooner the better.
As for my husband and I, we proceeded to Newark, only to be delayed for 24 hours before boarding an overseas flight. It was a grueling experience, with only one bright side.
We told each other more than once: “At least we’re not stuck in KCI.”
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at bshelly.