The Story of Kansas City International Airport: An Inside Look (2022)

[ Airports ]October 22, 2017 8:00 pm ET

By Matthew Garcia

The Story of Kansas City International Airport: An Inside Look

Built in 1972, Kansas City International Airport was designed to be one of the easiest airports to fly in or out of, for both pilot and passenger. Formerly known as Kansas City Mid-Continent International Airport, the facility, located in Kansas City, Missouri, was once a fan favorite. For pilots, the airport’s website boasts its “uncongested air and ground space, short taxi time, and low weather-related closure/cancellation rate.”

The Story of Kansas City International Airport: An Inside Look (2)

An empty hallway leading to the restrooms (Photo: Giselle Bergmeier)

For passengers, the terminals were designed to be small and easy to navigate. Before the safety precautions put in place after 9/11, passengers and their loved ones would simply walk through the front doors of the terminal and be at their gate.

Stores and restaurants line the front portion of the building, creating more room for travelers to stare out the large windows that lead to the tarmac. Underground tunnels double as parking garage access routes and storm shelters. Getting around MCI, affectionately referred to as such due to its airport code MCI, was a breeze compared to larger airports such as Dallas/Fort-Worth or New York’s John F. Kennedy.

The History of Kansas City International

MCI’s simplicity was initially designed for Trans World Airlines, often shorted to TWA. The airline wanted to make sure the passenger experience could be delivered as simply as possible. TWA applied heavy pressure on the city to build a terminal that allowed passengers to “drive to your gate.” It was the plan that would allow for the perfect hub in the perfect central US location. However, TWA’s opinion of MCI quickly changed.

When airline deregulation took effect in 1978, it dealt a large blow to airline operations in Kansas City. TWA, along with many other airlines, left the airport due to its poor design and lack of passengers. Security screening was also added shortly after the terminal was open, restricting the space in the already small terminal. The building size and the low passenger count were not enough to keep TWA in Kansas City. The airline gave the city council two options: build new, larger terminals, or the airline would leave.

(Video) INSIDE LOOK: Touring KCI's new single-terminal

Seats are scattered around the gate area. (Photo: Giselle Bergmeier)

After only recently completing the original terminals, the cityrefused to build new terminals to fit the airline’s demands. TWA responded by leaving Kansas City, moving across the state to St. Louis, Missouri.

Over the years, Terminal A began to loose Airlines due to consolidation and mergers. By the year 2000, the airport saw a limited amount of airlines ranging from Southwest, US Airways, United, AirTran, and more.

Flight status screens still display flight information. (Photo: Giselle Bergmeier)

Then, one the worst days in the United States history occurred: September 11, 2001.

The mass increaseof security measures at airports across the world resulted in families having to wave goodbye to their loved ones through a security wall, guarded by TSA agents. This, specifically, made things interesting in the case of Kansas City. New, taller, secure walls were put in place, causing the small terminal to become even narrower than before.

In addition to security concerns, MCI faced another large issue. Airlines began to disappear from the airport due to consolidation and mergers, causing Kansas City to have an excess of uninhabited gates. In 2014, airport officials made the decision that Terminal A was no longer profitable, due to a small number of daily flights, and the terminal was closed overnight.

And just like that, the terminal was empty. Operations were either moved to Terminals B and C or ceased altogether. To this day, nearly four years later, the terminal looks the same as the day it closed.

The Story of Kansas City International Airport: An Inside Look (6)

The unsecured area of Terminal A (Photo: Giselle Bergmeier)

(Video) Kansas City's New $1.5 Billion Airport

My Tour of Terminal A

I was fortunate enough to secure a tour of Terminal A with a great tour guide, MCI’s Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications, Joe McBride.

We started at Gate 1 of the horseshoe-shaped terminal and walked through the eerie fortress. With some minor touch-ups, the terminal could have opened to passengers the next day. The majority of the terminal’s guts were still there: chairs, tables, shop contents, office supplies and even luggage.

It was all there. The lights were on, the building was still temperature-controlled at a nice 73 degrees, and the secure access doors were still armed.

As we made our journey through the forgotten terminal, Mr. McBride explained the building is still used for various things. Cyber-security commercials have been filmed inside and the annual Pull-A-Plane charity event is held on the terminal’s ramp area. The one I was most interested in was police and K9 training, as local and airport police use Terminal A for hostage and bomb training.

Unclaimed luggage is laid out for K9 training (Photo: Giselle Bergmeier)

Multiple scenarios are run in the terminal, ranging from an active shooter to a bomb situation. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) provides unclaimed passenger luggage to stage the terminal for K9 training. Agents place foreign and illegal objects in the suitcases to train their K9 units to detect the items.

Everything had looked forgotten until we reached gate 14 when we passed a single standing security scanner, as well as a working bathroom. The bathroom lights were on and the sink faucet was left open with water gushing down the drain.

As I walked around the corner, the urinals automatic flushing sensor picked up my movement. My heart skipped a beat, as I didn’t expect the sensor to pick me up from seven feet away.

After reporting the running bathroom water to maintenance, McBride explained that gate 14 is still used for military charters and NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs team charters, so everything around that area must be functional.

We left gate 14 and continued the tour. We made stops in offices once occupied by the former airline and TSA staff. Most of the furniture was gone, but papers, supplies, and office phones were all there, all accompanied by mounds of dust.

A money safe was destroyed in an airline office (Photo: Giselle Bergmeier)

Boxes of TSA cards alerting passengers their bag was checked, unused boarding passes, and what looked to be baby hospital gowns, were stacked everywhere. In one room, the blinds were torn down and newspapers were laid out across the floor. It truly looked post-apocalyptical.

(Video) Kansas City International Airport New Terminal KCI April 2022 Update

Future Plans for the Airport

The future of MCI’s forgotten Terminal A remains unknown. The current proposal is to demolish Terminal A and build a larger, more modernized terminal in its place. Developers AECOM, Burns & McDonnell, Jones Lang LaSalle, and Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate had all pitched ideas for the $1 billion project on Aug. 14, 2017.

There has also been a growing influence on social media, demanding that an updated airport be built that is more efficient for passengers.

#newKCI pic.twitter.com/rOG0FWkVYd

— NewKCI (@newKCI) March 2, 2016

Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate was selected for the modernization project on Sept. 6, 2017 by a city council selection committee and city staffers. The recommendation still needs to pass the city council.

Another long-term solution, however, calls to keep the structure and possibly reopen it once the traffic calls for it. However, the size and age of the structure could cause issues with this option.

The unsecured area of Terminal A (Photo: Giselle Bergmeier)

There is no set fate for the old terminal, however, voting for a new terminal will take place on Nov. 7. For now, it shall sit abandoned with the only signs of life being the occasional movie crews, military charters, the Chiefs football team, and the lost driver circling the dilapidated road which borders the building.

Corrections:

Security screening was added prior to 9/11. Security walls were upgraded to have higher walls and included more gates in each hold post 9/11.

Airlines left the terminal due to consolidation and mergers. When the terminal closed, the remaining operations were moved to terminals B and C.

Voting for the new terminal will take place on Nov. 7. If the new structure is not passed, the long-term solution will be to reopen Terminal A once the need for it arises.

  • The Story of Kansas City International Airport: An Inside Look (10)

    (Video) Kansas City International Airport New Terminal Progress January 2022

    Matthew Garcia

    Matthew Garcia became interested in aviation at the age of 12 when he installed Microsoft Flight Simulator X on his computer. He was instantly "bitten by the bug" and has been in love with aviation ever since. Matthew took his first introductory flight in 2013 and began normal flight training in February of 2015. Over the years, Matthew's love and knowledge for aviation has grown tremendously, mainly due to FSX. Garcia flies highly advanced aircraft in a professional manner on a highly complex virtual air traffic network simulating real world flying. In 2016 Matthew achieved his private pilot certificate from the FAA. Now he studies journalism at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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Matthew Garcia

Matthew Garcia became interested in aviation at the age of 12 when he installed Microsoft Flight Simulator X on his computer. He was instantly "bitten by the bug" and has been in love with aviation ever since. Matthew took his first introductory flight in 2013 and began normal flight training in February of 2015. Over the years, Matthew's love and knowledge for aviation has grown tremendously, mainly due to FSX. Garcia flies highly advanced aircraft in a professional manner on a highly complex virtual air traffic network simulating real world flying. In 2016 Matthew achieved his private pilot certificate from the FAA. Now he studies journalism at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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(Video) MCI HIstory

FAQs

When was KC airport built? ›

Kansas City International Airport was built by the City of Kansas City, Missouri and opened in 1972. The KCI complex spans more than 10,000 acres, and its three runways can accommodate up to 139 aircraft operations per hour.

Who designed Kansas City International Airport? ›

Two firms, Kivett & Myers, architects, and Burns & McDonnell, engineers, were hired to prepare design concepts. Eight design concepts for the new airport had been considered, and ultimately, the “Drive-to-your-gate” concept was selected.

Why is Kansas City International Airport called MCI? ›

KCI was originally called Mid-Continent International Airport, or MCI, and the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) adopted MCI as the airport's designator code.

How many gates does Kansas City airport have? ›

Terminals. The airport originally consisted of three terminals numbered through gate 90, although the airport has never contained 90 gates.

What will happen to the old KCI terminals? ›

How will the open terminals be affected during construction? Terminals B and C will not be affected since the new terminal will be constructed on the site of the old Terminal A. The interiors of Terminals B and C will operate as normal throughout the construction.

How many airports does Kansas City have? ›

Does Kansas City have 2 airports? There are two major airports in Kansas City and they are Kansas City International Airport (MCI) and Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC). Besides, there are other small airports also.

How old is the Kansas City airport? ›

On November 11, 1972, the Kansas City International Airport officially opened for commercial service at the same Mid-Continent site. Built at a cost of $250 million, the ambitious design drawn up by the architectural firm of Kivett and Myers reflected TWA's grandiose ambitions.

What does MCO stand for airport? ›

The airport code MCO stands for the airport's former name, McCoy Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command (SAC) installation, that was closed in 1975 as part of a general military drawdown following the end of the Vietnam War. Orlando International Airport. IATA: MCO. ICAO: KMCO.

How many terminals does MCI have? ›

MCI Airport Terminals

Kansas City International Airport has 2 terminals — B and C — that are in the shape of incomplete circles. Access roads run along the front of Terminals B and C, with Terminal B served by Rome Circle and Terminal C served by Beirut Circle.

What airlines fly out of KCI? ›

  • Air Canada. Terminal: C. Website: https://www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home.html#/ ...
  • Alaska Airlines. Terminal: C. Website: http://www.alaskaair.com/ ...
  • Allegiant Airlines. Terminal: B. ...
  • American Airlines. Terminal: C. ...
  • Apple Vacations. Terminal: C. ...
  • Delta Air Lines. Terminal: B. ...
  • Frontier Airlines. Terminal: C. ...
  • JetBlue Airways. Terminal: C.

When did MCI change to KCI? ›

Kansas City International Airport (KCI), originally known as Mid-Continent International Airport (MCI), was formally dedicated on October 21-23, 1972.

Is there an Admirals Club in Kansas City? ›

American Airlines Admirals Club

Directions - Located next to Gate 79 in Terminal C.

Will the new Kansas City airport have a lounge? ›

The new Delta Sky Club is set to be located at a brand new terminal that is being constructed at MCI, which is set to open in 2023. The Delta Sky Club is set to be 11,000 square feet and will feature a bar with premium cocktails, seating and charging spaces, and varied dining options.

What will happen to terminals B and C MCI? ›

Terminal B will be demolished, but its garage will continue to be used, for closer-in employee parking. Terminal C and its garage will be demolished.

Are they building a new airport in Kansas City? ›

The Kansas City Aviation Department gave a tour of the new single terminal building of Kansas City International Airport to show its progress Thursday, March 24, 2022.

What is the largest airport in Kansas? ›

Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT) is the largest airport in Kansas and ranks as the 94th largest airport in the U.S. Wichita Eisenhower National Airport leads the state in air service with six airlines and nonstop service to 12 destinations (effective April 2017).

What airport do you fly into for Kansas City Kansas? ›

Kansas City International Airport (MCI) is located 19 miles northwest of downtown Kansas City. KCI offers: 11 airlines, more than 50 nonstop destinations and 400-plus daily flights.

What is KC airport code? ›

Is MCI airport in Kansas or Missouri? ›

In Kansas City, people typically refer to the airport as KCI, even though its actual code is MCI. Turns out, that's pretty common.

Does St Louis have an airport? ›

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (IATA: STL, ICAO: KSTL, FAA LID: STL), is the primary commercial airport serving metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri, United States.

What does lax stand for? ›

What does the X in LAX stand for? It doesn't really stand for anything! The letter X was just added to L.A. when airports switched from two-letter to three-letter identifiers. Those are the facts, according to the website of Los Angeles World Airports, which oversees airports in Los Angeles, Van Nuys, and Palmdale.

Why is Chicago airport called ORD? ›

1949: Chicago City Council renames Orchard Field as Chicago O'Hare International Airport (O'Hare) to honor naval aviator Lieutenant Commander Edward H. “Butch” O'Hare, a Medal of Honor recipient from Chicago.

How many runways does MCO? ›

The present-day Orlando Airport has a hub-and-spoke layout featuring one central terminal building with four smaller concourses connected. It has four runways and a helipad and in 2017 handled over 22 million passengers making it the 11th busiest airport in the United States.

Is Kansas City a hub for any airline? ›

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This city used to face an enormous obstacle marketing itself: No major airline runs a hub here. That means nonstop flights are comparatively scarce.

Is Kansas City a hub? ›

Kansas City has several key components that make it an excellent hub for all transportation and logistics operations.

What does MCO stand for airport? ›

The airport code MCO stands for the airport's former name, McCoy Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command (SAC) installation, that was closed in 1975 as part of a general military drawdown following the end of the Vietnam War. Orlando International Airport. IATA: MCO. ICAO: KMCO.

How many terminals does MCI have? ›

MCI Airport Terminals

Kansas City International Airport has 2 terminals — B and C — that are in the shape of incomplete circles. Access roads run along the front of Terminals B and C, with Terminal B served by Rome Circle and Terminal C served by Beirut Circle.

Is Kansas City getting a new airport? ›

The Kansas City Aviation Department gave a tour of the new single terminal building of Kansas City International Airport to show its progress Thursday, March 24, 2022.

What airlines fly out of Kansas City? ›

  • Air Canada. Terminal: C. Website: https://www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home.html#/ ...
  • Alaska Airlines. Terminal: C. Website: http://www.alaskaair.com/ ...
  • Allegiant Airlines. Terminal: B. ...
  • American Airlines. Terminal: C. ...
  • Apple Vacations. Terminal: C. ...
  • Delta Air Lines. Terminal: B. ...
  • Frontier Airlines. Terminal: C. ...
  • JetBlue Airways. Terminal: C.

Is Kansas City in Kansas or Missouri or both? ›

There are two Kansas Cities in the United States; Kansas City in the state of Missouri and Kansas City in the state of Kansas.

What is KC airport code? ›

Videos

1. Kansas City International Airport New Terminal May 2022 Drone Video
(Build KCI)
2. See the progress on Kansas City International Airport's new single terminal
(KMBC 9)
3. Kansas City International Airport terminal workforce program wraps up
(41 Action News)
4. Kansas City International Airport Construction Films - "Target:1972"
(KCIAirport)
5. Policy Presentation: A Public Discussion About Kansas City International Airport
(Show-Me Institute)
6. Kansas City International Airport New Terminal April - May 2022 Paving Time-Lapse Video
(Build KCI)

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