Sneak peek: Inside the new Kansas City Airport terminal, opening in just 5 months


Airport construction is notorious for being delayed and vastly over budget.

Still, the Kansas City Aviation Department is on track to accomplish a great feat in the aviation world — one that many locals in the surrounding community never thought would happen.

Airport authorities are building a brand new terminal at Kansas City International Airport (MCI) in Missouri that will replace the existing aging facility. When the project broke ground in April 2019, authorities estimated completion in 2023 with a budget of $1.5 billion.

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Just over three years later, the new facility is 90% complete and scheduled to open by March 2023, well within the original budget.

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Even in a perfect world, completing an airport construction project on time and on budget is a challenge. A global pandemic and the associated supply chain and staff shortages make it even more difficult. So it’s easy to see why Patrick Klein and Justin Meyer – the director of the airport and the deputy director of aviation respectively – couldn’t be more excited about the outcome.

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That wasn’t always good news for Kansas City airport officials. The proposed new terminal met with significant opposition and received support from local residents and politicians alike. It took considerable effort to persuade public opinion to support the new building.

As the construction work entered the final phase, TPG Airport invited visitors to take a helmet tour of the new terminal. While there is still work to be done, Kansas City Airport’s new terminal is sure to impress even the most vocal of critics.

A central check-in hall

The upgrades are noticeable from the minute you pull up to the departure curb.

For the first time in Kansas City, the arrivals and departures areas are split into a lower and upper level, giving drivers and commercial vehicles more room to pick up and drop off passengers.

When you arrive, it feels like you’re entering a much more modern airport, thanks to the tall Y-shaped support beams supporting the roof, which protects two of the vehicle lanes.

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The massive check-in concourse is designed for the 21st century, with floor-to-ceiling windows, updated signage and plenty of space for airline check-in desks.

The current Kansas City airport terminal was designed in a pre-9/11 era when you could pull up at the curb and practically board the plane.

The introduction of TSA control made the airport significantly less efficient as most departure areas were no longer airside connected.

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The new terminal centralizes security checks in a single location. There are currently 14 checkpoints spread across the existing airport and the new terminal will have 16 lanes on opening day, Meyer told a group of reporters.

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The plaza can be expanded to 18 lanes if needed, and Meyer told TPG that visitors “can expect clear lanes here on opening day.” The airport is currently in negotiations with Sure to bring this accelerated security program to Kansas City.

2 halls, 2 goals

After passing through security you are airside and can proceed to any of the terminal’s 39 gates.

The first thing you’ll probably notice are the high ceilings and the abundance of natural light. It was immediately clear that the passenger experience will receive a major upgrade with the opening of the new terminal.

After security, enter the centralized rotunda in Hall A. Turning left takes you to the south pier with four gates, while turning right takes you to the north pier with eight gates.

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Concourse A North will be home to American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, both members of the Oneworld Alliance. Concourse A South will house JetBlue, Air Canada, Allegiant Air and a few other airlines.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines will call Concourse B home.

A 635-foot link lined with walking walkways bridges the two halls. Meier said TPG that it will take no more than seven minutes to get from the curb to the farthest gate in B Concourse.

This concourse connector offers fantastic views of the apron and the airfield in the distance; It will likely become a favorite for flight enthusiasts passing through the airport.

Concourse B also features a centralized amenities area before morphing into a north and south pier with gates.

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In this central area you’ll find a new City Market Food Hall designed to resemble its namesake location in downtown Kansas City. The airport’s first lounge – an 11,000-square-foot Delta Sky Club – will be built in this area on the upper level above the main departure lounge.

Although still under construction, the club is poised to offer some of the best views from the terminal.

Passengers can expect a wealth of never-before-seen amenities at Kansas City Airport. This includes two information desks in each of the two central retail hubs, as well as a meditation room, conference room and animal sanctuary areas.

The gate areas are significantly larger than before. On average, they can accommodate 125 passengers, an increase of almost 70% over the existing ones in the old terminal.

As airlines send larger planes into Kansas City, there will be more seats than ever before. Each seat has easy access to power outlets and USB ports.

Southwest Kansas City station manager Dan Brownlee attended the tour and made a few comments about his enthusiasm for the new terminal.

While he didn’t comment on the future of the airline’s local operations, he teased that “the larger waiting room areas allow for a lot more connectivity and just a lot more passenger traffic in and out of the area.”

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Every terminal facility — including check-in, ticketing, and gate desks — is designed in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

While the gate areas are still in the works, TPG was given a tour of one of the all-glass passenger boarding bridges.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Kansas City airport authorities are particularly proud of their choice of these types of passenger boarding bridges, saying passengers will not experience claustrophobia when boarding planes. Also, these American-made jet bridges have HVAC capabilities for both the bridges themselves and the aircraft parked at the gate.

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Speaking of goals, Meyer was keen to explain the sensible numbering sequence he and the team designed for the new terminal.

Firstly, each gate is identified by a letter and a number, with the former corresponding to either the A or B hall.

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Even-numbered gates are all on one side, while odd-numbered gates are all on the other side. Meyer made sure that each gate was numbered in sequential order from north to south, although some numbers had to be skipped.

The airport has even saved some numbers for a possible future expansion of Concourse A South.

One of the final construction works will be the airport’s 28 art installations, which were specially commissioned for the new terminal.

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Once completed, the artwork will no doubt give the terminal an even more impressive look.

There are numerous restrooms throughout the new terminal, all equipped with a green/red light system to indicate if a cabin is occupied.

There will be a mix of gender-specific and gender-specific facilities, and all stall doors open outwards – a conscious design choice on the part of the airport.

Speaking of concessions, Lovell Holloway, general manager of Vantage Airport Group, was pleased to announce that all 50 dining and shopping options will be open from day one. About 80% of the concessions will come from Kansas City-area brands, including Pigwich and Parisi Coffee.

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The airport has negotiated that prices are tied to local shops near the airport, subject to a 15% surcharge.

Optimized arrival experience

The arrival experience in Kansas City is completely redesigned with the new terminal.

Gone are the days of baggage claim on the same level as the departure area. Instead, there’s a centralized escalator and elevator bank near the Main Concourse A retail hub that leads to a lower level where you’ll find seven baggage claims.

From there, exit the airport by going to the arrivals curb or the 6,100-space car park.

International arrivals park at Concourse A South, where a new federal inspection station is located. On the Arrivals level, just a few steps from the aircraft, there will be baggage claim and a Customs and Border Protection facility.

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This area extends past customs into the main arrivals hall.

bottom line

The new Kansas City Airport is poised to bring some major upgrades to passenger travel.

Travelers will enjoy a centralized check-in and security experience, which then flows into upgraded areas with numerous retail, food and relaxation options.

The gates are airier, bigger and brighter, which makes the preflight experience much more pleasant.

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When you land, proceed to a dedicated arrivals level that has much larger baggage claims and a separate curb to ease the traffic congestion that is sometimes present at the existing facility.

Of course, all of these upgrades come at the expense of the convenience of earlier airport designs – before, it only took a few steps to reach the gate.

Despite this, many passengers will appreciate the upgraded facility, which brings many improvements to the end-to-end journey. It will transform Kansas City Airport into a true 21st century transportation hub.





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