New KCI terminal
Kansas City International Airport’s new terminal will open Tuesday, Feb. 28. Here’s what to know about the opening and flying through the new space.
Jenna Sutter Brown of Olathe walked into the ticketing hall of Kansas City International Airport’s new terminal on Tuesday and immediately felt the urge to text her husband.
“I teared up a little,” she said. “I was really excited just because I think this is a big reflection of a lot of growth in Kansas City.”
Sutter Brown and her 5-year-old daughter, Hazel, were among about 600 “passengers” who participated in a simulation at KCI Tuesday giving the new terminal a test flight. It was also one of the first chances for the general public to see the new terminal in person.
“It is an airport (terminal) I think that makes you proud of where you’re from,” said Sutter Brown, who classified herself a big traveler.
The simulation was to help officials prepare the terminal for its Feb. 28 opening day. The public will get another chance to tour the new terminal during an open house on Saturday. People had to register to get the sneak peek and all 10,000 spots were quickly filled.
A simulated flight at KCI’s new terminal
People on Tuesday were asked to pretend as if they leaving on a flight. Each person was given an assignment. After they checked in — and in some cases checked their bags — they headed through into the secured area of the terminal.
They had tasks to find certain amenities, such as restrooms, the sensory room, a play area and an ATM, before reaching their gate, said Justin Meyer, deputy director of aviation for the Kansas City Aviation Department.
The travelers then got to pretend they were arriving passengers and reverse their path through the terminal on their way to claim any bags they checked. They were then asked to fill out a survey and provide feedback on their experience.
“We’re exactly two weeks out from the new terminal opening and now’s the time for us to get those last details correct,” Meyer said.
Efforts to get everything right
Work on the new terminal is still ongoing.
The 16-lane security checkpoint, for example, is still being built out, so Tuesday’s passengers didn’t have to go through security. The concession and retail shops are still being built and were not open. But they could see familiar brands of local places and icons.
“We think two weeks is enough time for us to make the necessary changes for the bit items,” Meyer said. “There certainly will be some things that we’ll be working on for months to come to try to make sure that we’re getting all the touch points right in the new terminal.”
One of the minor issues that officials were learning is that some of the signs might need to be bigger or repeated. There was also a glitch with a printer that was not printing a gate number, he said.
“It’s been really delightful to watch faces of people walking into the building for the first time,” Meyer said. “They are seeing a completely different front door for Kansas City.”
The nostalgia factor
Sutter Brown said she was aware there was some resistance to the new terminal. She understands to a point because there’s nothing better than walking in to the old terminals a half hour before a flight and being able to pass through security really quickly.
“But you know, in the past couple of years it felt as if it was getting smaller and smaller and harder and harder to love,” she said.
She thinks the old terminals have come to depend for their appeal more on a nostalgia factor and a lot of people will miss it. Her family plans to make one last trip to the terminals before they close and have one last coffee. She believes that people are going to like the new terminal once they get used to it.
Sutter Brown, who also was a special educator, said it was nice to see a lot of accessibility features for the community.
“Kansas City is a really disability forward city and the airport (terminal) is reflecting that which is great,” she said.
Frequent flier Gayle O’Grady of Prairie Village said she was excited about the new terminal and thinks that it is beautiful. She believes that that the new terminal will stand up against a lot of others that she’s seen at airports around the country and internationally.
She admits that she’ll miss how quick it is at the current terminals to get in and go on your flight. But she said that it will be nice that once you’re through security at the new terminal, there’s “some really good” places to eat.
A couple things she things could be done better is the signs for such things as nursing rooms, bathrooms and family rooms.
“It might be nice to have a few clocks around.,” O’Grady said.
No ATM after the security checkpoint
Keith Johnson of Kansas City was assigned to check in with American Airlines and check his bag. He also had to find the sensory room, an ATM and the food and beverage areas on Concourse A.
“They did well, really well,” said Johnson, although he couldn’t find the ATM. He learned that it was in the ticketing hall prior to passing through security. He believes that with the food and shopping options, there need to be ATMs after security.
He too felt that the signs will need to be tweaked to help travelers find their way in the terminal. That might change as people become more familiar with the new terminal.
“It’s not like the old terminal where everything is pretty much, ‘Oh I can get to it with my eyes closed,’” he said.
Without a doubt, Johnson said, the new terminal is better than the old terminals. He said he would rate it an 8 out of 10 right now. He said it’s vibrant, bright and spacious.
“And I think it speaks to who and what Kansas City represents and who we are as a city and as a metro area,” he said.
This story was originally published February 14, 2023, 4:56 PM.