Archive for Friday, July 6, 2012

KCI redo

The design of Kansas City International Airport may be convenient for passengers, but that no longer is the priority for the airline industry or Homeland Security.

July 6, 2012


Earlier this week, Kansas City, Mo.’s aviation director and some architects involved in designing the three-terminal Kansas City International Airport got together to discuss plans to make major alterations to the airport that has been hailed for its passenger-friendly features.

The consensus of the group is that, although the airport that opened in 1972 is convenient for passengers, this is “another era,” and changes are required. Aviation director Mark VanLoh recognized the appeal of the “drive to your gate” concept, which was adopted by a number of other airports, but also acknowledged that passenger comfort no longer is a priority for airlines or for Homeland Security.

This statement comes as no surprise to any recent airline passenger.

Two architects who worked for the firm that originally designed KCI confirmed the view that the airport’s innovative design was no longer workable in light of airline consolidations and modern security concerns. Fewer airlines means that some of KCI’s terminals are overcrowded while others are nearly empty. VanLoh claimed that because of KCI’s many security entry points, it has more airport screeners than all three New York airports combined.

The first plan to solve this problem was to replace KCI with a new structure at a nearby location at a cost of $1.5 billion to $2 billion. Now, airport planners are looking at replacing the current Terminal A with a larger structure that would accommodate all of KCI’s flights. They estimate the latter plan would save about $500 million and would allow a new terminal to be built in about five years rather than seven or eight.

Although Lawrence residents are big users of KCI, they will have no say in its future design, which must be approved by the Kansas City (Mo.) City Council, airlines and federal aviation officials. Nonetheless, travelers from Lawrence and elsewhere will help foot the bill for a new terminal, which would be paid for by the airlines and by taxes and fees paid by airline customers. So close to the 4th of July, it sort of makes one think of the phrase about “taxation without representation.”

No matter how much passengers liked the design of KCI, change now seems inevitable. One of the architects who helped design KCI said last week that the city should look at this as “a new opportunity” to create another iconic building, like the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kauffman Center is a lovely structure, well-suited to its artistic mission, but the last thing most travelers probably want is an airport design that emphasizes form over function. According to news reports, airport officials have pledged to select an architect to design a terminal that would be as convenient as the current KCI. It seems a tall order, but we hope they are successful.


Carol Bowen 5 years, 9 months ago

KCI is a beautiful airport. The best i have seen. I hope they can find some remodel that will keep the appraeance and convenience.

mae 5 years, 9 months ago

There is no such thing as KCI, it is MCI. Research to look like you know what you're talking about.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 9 months ago

It's KCI on all road signs in the area. MCI is what is put on the luggage tags. Kansas City Int'l versus Mid-Continent Int'l.

Cai 5 years, 9 months ago

@mae The airport is called Kansas City International, abbreviated on all the street signs and in other common places (like newspapers) as KCI. However, airport codes and things being what they are, there can't be any three letter codings that start with K (K and W are reserved by the FCC, the Navy has N, and Q is reserved for international communication) So the airport code (and the code that goes on your luggage and on flight reservation pages) is MCI, referring to the almost name of the airport, Mid-Continent International, as referred to by KUGuardGrl.

At the risk of sounding snide... "Research to look like you know what you're talking about."

Larrytown 5 years, 9 months ago

Ummmm...KCI which is the "common" abbreviation for Kansas City International. So, you might do a little research on your own before posting. With that being said, if you want to book a flight from Kansas City International...the abbreviation code is MCI.


gphawk89 5 years, 9 months ago

Everyone living in or around KC calls it KCI; everyone else booking a flight into the airport calls it MCI.

John Hamm 5 years, 9 months ago

All of the posters in this thread should do some research. KCI (common name) was originally called Mid-Continent Airport hence the MCI designation. As it became less of a hub and more of Kansas City's airport the KCI designation came into use. Sorry to break all of your bubbles.......

Cai 5 years, 9 months ago



Yes, it was originally called Mid-Continent, It was officially renamed in 1972.

Thus, sometime in the intervening 40 years, the 'common' abbreviations have updated to include KCI. The three letter code didn't update because, as previously stated, K cannot be used as the first letter in a 3 letter airport code.

I'm not arguing exclusivity (that is, MCI is also correct). But to say that "There is no such thing as KCI" is incorrect.

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 9 months ago

Mci is merely the three digit airport designation code used for baggage handling. The Orlando airport is MCO for example. That doesn't mean MCO is the Orlando airports name...

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 9 months ago

KCI and Southwest have made flying somewhat tolerable in the last few years. I've gone through quite a few airports and called several "home". Pittsburgh, PA, has 4 radial concourses and one connected by tram. Several gates sit empty since US Airways packed their bags for Philly. Minneapolis/St. Paul has one large terminal with several concourses connected by tram or moving walkway. It takes several minutes to get from the horribly clogged security gate to your plane's gate. The other terminal is home to the smaller airlines and is much easier to get through. I've been to other large airports that have one small security gate for the entire airport. How is that possibly better than KCI? Many gates are stuffed into a hallway that back in the day you could just walk through. Or they take up what used to be a lovely open area. So TSA is going to force us to pay for for airline tickets just so they can cut staff? That will be great for the economy. Convince everyone you know who lives in KCMO to go to their city commission and tell them no!

somedude20 5 years, 9 months ago

I like Pitts airport just for the reason that non-travelers cant go to the gates, one must have a ticket and their beer is pretty cheap for an airport (KCI-$9, Pitt, $4). Is weird to see such an empty place though since US Scare left

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 9 months ago

The fees are already high enough at MCI aka KCI!

The cheapest flight from MCI aka KCI to Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) one way on August 13 nonstop is $192, with one or more stops it is a minimum of $116.

But, if you can spend two hours extra driving to Wichita (ICT) and don't mind taking off and landing at a smaller airport that is not crowded at all it's a lot cheaper. Mesa, Arizona is a suburb of Phoenix, and has its own airport, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA), which is also smaller and also not at all crowded. A nonstop ticket one way on August 13 is only $60.50!

That's less than 1/3rd of the price for a nonstop flight out of MCI!

Smaller airports are much easier to park and board at, but it is true that the flights will be limited to certain days of the week, and not as many destinations will be available. And, at AZA it's not necessary to board a bus to get to the car rental agencies. You have no choice, you have to take that bus ride to get a rental car if you fly into PHX. And yes, you can rent a car at AZA. But, to my disappointment, Mustang convertibles are not available for rental at AZA, but they are at PHX.

I would certainly urge anyone that is making travel plans to consider driving to Wichita (ICT) for a flight if there is one to their destination, not only because the flight will cost less than half as much, at least for some destinations, but also because the airports are much more convenient.

The airlines that fly out of ICT are Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, and United.

Matt O'Reilly 5 years, 9 months ago

I think the better suggestion is research local airports. I did a cursory search and found for a trip I'll be taking soon, it would cost about $450 out of MCI vs. $720 out of ICT. That said, every flight is different, so I'll be sure to search flights out of ICT in the future.

All said, we could do a lot worse than MCI.

hooligan01 5 years, 9 months ago

Yes, a 45-60 minute drive for most of the users. Yes, you're right, since almost everyone that flies out of MCI is from one in KC ever flys out of there, just Lawrence people.

pace 5 years, 9 months ago

The airport should have at least vending machines if the amenities close at sunset like a small town. I assume if they change to a big single terminal they will at least have some sort of food court open. I want the security to be upgraded.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 9 months ago

You might want to have the security upgraded, but at what cost? I've been told that airport security is into so many billions of dollars by now that it can hardly be calculated. It's not only the cost, but the added inconvenience and time wasted for the passengers.

And, I was also told that after spending untold billions of dollars, TSA has yet to discover a single security threat that presented an actual danger to the traveling public.

But, they have been found to have missed many box cutters, knives, and pistols from passengers that forgot they had them in their possession.

The liquid bomb that was hidden in a shoe, and another passenger once tried to carry one in his underwear were no more powerful than a large firecracker, and to think that something like that would bring down a modern jetliner is a joke. But, it's certainly not a very funny one.

jjt 5 years, 9 months ago

Whist true that in today's world we have to be security conscious and the airlines have to run a business, will any one ask the public what they think?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 9 months ago

Some of the public obviously doesn't care much about safety. Many of the travelers do not even wear their seat belt on the way to or from the airport, and that is the biggest risk of air travel by an incredibly large margin.

There have been quite a few people killed traveling by car to and from MCI over the years. But, no passengers have ever been killed or even injured there. And, MCI has been open since 1972, 40 years now.

There were two crashes at MCI, but both of them were freighters, not passenger flights. However, there were some very serious scares for the passengers, but in every case the jet was under total control of the pilot.

This is a complete list of every fatal accident at MCI:

1) February 16, 1995 Air Transport International McDonnell Douglas DC-8, 3 fatalities. The DC-8 is a very old plane now, and very few, if any, DC-8s are in use for passenger transport. As of May 2009, only 97 DC-8s were still in service.

2) April 13, 1987 Buffalo Airways Flight 721 operated by Burlington Air Express cargo flight, 4 fatalities.

Freighters do not have to meet the same safety standards, both in aircraft maintenance and in pilot training. They are also older planes that have been taken out of passenger service, usually due to age, something like 20 years or so of use. A typical airline pilot has put in thousands of hours flying a freighter jet before he or she is trusted to fly a jet with passengers aboard.

It is all relative and perceived risk. Air travel is perceived to be dangerous, but that is preposterous. You are safer in a modern jetliner than you are sleeping in your bed at night.

At home in bed, you could die from a fire, an intruder, a heart attack, or other health problem that requires immediate resuscitation. In most modern jet flights, there is at least one steward that is trained to resuscitate someone and also to use the defibrillator that is aboard most modern jets. If you have a heart attack or something like that in bed at night, it's very likely no one will know about it until morning, if then.

All the extra security and hassle drives some people away from air travel onto our incredibly dangerous highways. And that's a serious problem.

gphawk89 5 years, 9 months ago

"There have been quite a few people killed traveling by car to and from MCI over the years." Notably Derrick Thomas.

The DC-8 accident was a cargo plane trying to take off using three engines (instead of four - one was out of service) if I remember correctly. Pilot error - incorrect procedures for a 3-engine takoff.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 9 months ago

If any passenger jet pilot tried to take off with one engine out of service, that would be his or her last passenger flight whether or not the takeoff was successful, because termination of employment would be immediate.

LogicMan 5 years, 9 months ago

What would it take to get Southwest to have a plane that hops back and forth between Denver, Topeka, Wichita, and Dallas? I'd rather, when possible, fly in and out of Topeka than an airport in Missouri.

KU_cynic 5 years, 9 months ago

If we started from scratch would KCI be designed similarly to its current 3-terminal, multiple-gate security, immediate access parking configuration? Probably not. There are no doubt disadvantages to the current design (higher security personnel costs, inconvenience to passengers changing planes and airlines, lack of concentrated passenger traffic to a common dining/shopping area, etc.).

But there are also conveniences, especially for those of us who use KCI as a starting and ending point to our trips. At what other airport can one arrive 30 minutes before a flight with a pre-printed boarding pass and be confident of making a flight, unencumbered by mile-long security check lines, miles of trams, conveyor belt walks, or (worse) un-assisted concourse marathons?

Let's face it -- a spanking new airport will not drive regional economic growth, nor is Kansas City likely to need it as a high profile premium event destination (e.g., Olympics). Federal money would be better spent in mega-city locations that truly need vastly expanded airport service (e.g., New York and Chicago).

I say keep the current configuration and invest instead on the extra personnel, and make some modest investments in within-concourse hospitality facilities.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 9 months ago

If Kansas City were a major transport point, I could see the need to update it to be more friendly for transfers. But I feel like most of the people flying in or out are local. You fly out of MCI and often have to stop in St. Louis, Chicago, or somewhere outside of the midwest entirely. We're short flights away from several major airports (St. Louis, Chicago, MSP, Dallas, Denver, etc). KCI doesn't need to be a huge airport. It's perfectly fine the way it is. Not to mention it's a lot easier to spot a threat in a small group of people than it is in a large mass. So we need to employ more security people than other airports. How are jobs a bad thing in this economy? Do the TSA people at KCI ever complain about their jobs? They seem much happier than the ones at much larger airports.

JackMcKee 5 years, 9 months ago

"but also acknowledged that passenger comfort no longer is a priority for airlines or for Homeland Security."

Thus why I no longer fly unless it's absolutely necessary.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 9 months ago

Make the airlines foot the bill. Taxpayers are getting duped into making changes that are not necessary.

Homeland Security is a bloated tax dollar money hole enterprise. 9/11/01 happened because BUSHCO failed to perform in the area of National Security. The culprits were not strangers to law enforcement. BUSHCO simply blew off this crew instead of assigning the FBI to keep track of these terrorists.

GW Bush was advised that something was on the table yet failed to take steps such as 24/7 surveillance with an interception plan. Hell they were living only a few blocks from NSA headquarters. It was not the fault of any airport it was a failure in the National Security department.

All of this outrageous spending is more smoke and mirror crap distracting we taxpayers from the issue of a massive failure in National Security and the Bush administration.

That $2 billion would be better spent putting locals to work fixing streets,sidewalks and bridges in the core of the city.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 9 months ago

Quick question: if the airlines "foot the bill" to whom will the airlines pass those costs? The other nonsense in your post isn't even worth addressing.

Centerville 5 years, 9 months ago

KU Cynic, you had me alarmed there with the federal spending part. So was relieved to re-read: "Nonetheless, travelers from Lawrence and elsewhere will help foot the bill for a new terminal, which would be paid for by the airlines and by taxes and fees paid by airline customers."

Whew. Can you imagine what sort of a mess of an airport we'd have if the feds did it?

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