SMITHVILLE — A single-terminal demolition and renovation to Kansas City International Airport is underway.
Presenting to Rotarians at Smithville's St. Luke's North Hospital, Justin Meyer, deputy director of aviation provided background on why an update was needed.
People across America are familiar with 9/11 and the impact it had in changing airport security. It sparked new practices like shoe removal for security screenings and liquid bans. Meyer reminded Rotarians of an earlier event in 1972 when a plane hijacking sparked the origin of preflight screenings.
"There didn't used to be security screening before getting on an airplane," Meyer said.
Days before the new Kansas City airport opened, a hijacking by Detroit's Louis Moore ultimately resulted in passengers passing through security checkpoints before boarding a plane.
"We had a state-of-the-art facility for 86 days," Meyer said. "Then we didn't."
Many airports across America built centralized security points with linked terminals, food and bathrooms behind security for convenience. In the coming years, KCI will too.
Now serving 31 gates, the new one-terminal facility will feature 39. Shaped similar to an "H," Meyer said no person would ever have to take more than 25% more steps than they do now to reach their gate.
Parking will be expanded with capacity for 6,500 vehicles with room to locate rental car return in the basement of the garage if, in the future, fewer people park there. Also featured is capacity for alternate vehicle types, such as electric.
"One of our greatest complaints from airlines is connecting experience," Meyer said. "It's a reason we can't draw in more airlines."
With upgraded facilities, he explained, more people will be willing to connect in Kansas City, bringing more flights through and more potential of direct flights for residents.
KCI currently offers 53 non-stop flights, and Meyer said the Kansas City community has asked for more. Having connections here will provide that.
As it is now, the busiest airline in KCI is Southwest. Meyer said Southwest's smallest plane seats over 100 guests. Flights to top unserved cities from Kansas City, such as Cleveland and Pittsburg, leave more than half of the aircraft empty. Connecting flights through Kansas City will fill the seats.
As other airports have grown over the years, KCI went from the 32nd busiest airport in the country to 41st due to lack of improvements, Meyer said.
In addition to remodeling, there will also be convenience locations for families. The new one-terminal airport will feature rooms for nursing moms and sensory rooms for those who may be on the autism spectrum. There will be an all-inclusive playground for children and common use space.
For efficiency, KCI will finally have moving walkways and will separate arriving and departing traffic.
Current progress includes demolition of Terminal A and moving airlines to Terminals B and C. Businesses and restaurants are also making bids to be part of the new airport.
"I know we'll have some of everything," Meyer said, referencing a recent meeting with over 150 vendors. "Of course with all the barbecue in Kansas City, we'll only satisfy 25% with whichever one we choose."
Steel work will begin this winter. All work is expected to be completed by spring 2023. Flights will continue through construction.