Editorial: KCI future

It’s probably time for Kansas City to do something about its airport. We can only hope it will be a plus, not a minus, for airline travelers.

Lawrence residents won’t get to vote on plans to renovate or replace Kansas City International Airport, but we still feel like we have a stake in the future of our airport.

After more than two years of discussion, Kansas City leaders reportedly are focusing on several options for the airport, but none that preserve the horseshoe terminals that many travelers have learned to love for their convenient access and parking. The options currently drawing the most attention are two plans that would demolish Terminal A and replace it with a single terminal that would house all the airport’s operations and two plans that would make major renovations to both Terminal A and B. All of the scenarios include additional parking garages.

Building a new terminal would cost about $1 billion, and renovating the two existing terminals would cost about $1.2 billion. In both cases, officials say the costs would be paid by for with airport and airline fees, not by tax dollars. Parking fees might rise slightly (whatever that means), they say, but the project wouldn’t have much, if any, impact on airline ticket prices (how would we know?).

Plans to upgrade KCI are driven by several concerns. One of the major changes in the design will be central security points through which all passengers would pass before fanning out to get to their gates. It’s clear that the existing terminals weren’t designed to easily accommodate modern security needs, and the makeshift system that allows one security checkpoint to serve multiple gates is far from ideal. Plans also are expected to provide better access to food and other amenities that are difficult to provide in the narrow bands outside and inside secured areas at KCI.

In other words, the plans will make KCI look a lot more like all other major U.S. airports.

It’s easy to mourn the loss of the three-terminal convenience of KCI, but the reality is that the airport isn’t as convenient as it once was. Terminal A has been mothballed, and Terminal B is serving more passengers causing parking problems and long security lines during peak times. The 43-year-old airport also is showing its age, including infrastructure issues beneath the terminal buildings.

Something needs to be done. As with any new project, there are bound to be things people don’t like about the new plan, but there also may be some things that people find more convenient or comfortable once they get used to them.

Airline travel, in general, isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Hopefully, officials can come up with a new terminal design and facilities that will enhance, not detract, from that experience for travelers passing through KCI.