Olathe’s Jenna Sutter Brown walked into the ticketing hall of the new Kansas City International Airport terminal on Tuesday and immediately felt the need to text her husband.
“I cried a little,” she said. “I was really excited just because I think this is a great reflection of a lot of growth in Kansas City.”
Sutter Brown and her 5-year-old daughter, Hazel, were among about 600 “passengers” who attended a simulation at KCI on Tuesday giving the new terminal a test flight. It was also one of the first opportunities for the general public to see the new terminal in person.
“I think it’s an airport (terminal) that makes you proud of where you’re from,” said Sutter Brown, who has described herself as an avid traveler.
The simulation was to help officials prepare the terminal for its February 28 opening day. The public will have another chance to visit the new terminal during an open house on Saturday. People had to register to get the preview, and all 10,000 seats were quickly filled.
A test passenger snaps photos of a sculpture called “Molten Swing” by artist Son Sunny Park during a mock tour Tuesday at Kansas City International Airport.
A simulated flight at KCI’s new terminal
People were asked to pretend they were leaving on a flight on Tuesday. Each person was assigned a task. After checking in – and in some cases checking bags – they made their way to the secure area of the terminal.
They were tasked with finding a few amenities, such as restrooms, sensory room, a play area and an ATM, before they reached their gate, said Justin Meyer, deputy director of aviation for the Kansas City Department of Aviation .
Travelers then had to pretend to be arriving passengers and reverse their way through the terminal to collect their checked bags. They were then asked to fill out a survey and provide feedback on their experience.
“We are exactly two weeks away from opening the new terminal and now is the time for us to fix the final details,” Meyer said.
Efforts to do everything right
The works for the new terminal are still in progress.
The 16-lane security checkpoint, for example, is still under construction, so Tuesday’s passengers didn’t have to go through security. The concession and retail stores are still under construction and weren’t open. But they could see familiar brands of places and local icons.
“We think two weeks is plenty of time for us to make the necessary changes to the bit elements,” Meyer said. “There will certainly be some things that we will be working on for months to come to try and make sure we have all the right touchpoints in the new terminal.”
A corridor entering from gates B-40 to 69 is lit by the windows of the Kansas City International Airport on Tuesday.
One of the minor issues officials were learning is that some of the signs may need to be larger or repeated. There was also a glitch with a printer not printing a gate number, he said she.
“It was really refreshing to see the faces of people walking into the building for the first time,” Meyer said. “They’re seeing a completely different gateway to Kansas City.”
The nostalgia factor
Sutter Brown said he was aware there was some resistance to the new terminal. He understands to a certain extent why there is nothing better than entering the old terminals half an hour before a flight and being able to go through security very quickly.
“But you know, the last couple of years it seemed like he was getting smaller and harder to love,” she said.
Think that the old terminals have become addicted for their charm more of a nostalgia factor and many people will miss them. His family plans to take one last trip to the terminals before they close and grab one last coffee. She believes people will like the new terminal once they get used to it.
Sutter Brown, who was also a special educator, said it was great to see a lot of accessibility features for the community.
“Kansas City is a truly cutting-edge city for disability, and the airport (terminal) reflects that which is great,” he said.
A mosaic is displayed on the floors of the Kansas City International Airport on Tuesday. The mosaic was culled from portions of the old Kansas City International Airport terminal floor.
Prairie Village frequent flyer Gayle O’Grady said she was thrilled with the new terminal and found it beautiful. He believes the new terminal will stand up to many others he has seen at airports around the country and internationally.
She admits she will miss how quick it is at the current terminals to get in and on your flight. But she said it will be nice that once you get through security at the new terminal, there are “some really good places” to eat.
A couple of things that could be done better are signs for things like nursing rooms, bathrooms and family rooms.
“It might be nice to have a few watches around,” O’Grady said.
Southwest International test passenger Jacob Lanier collects his baggage at baggage claim during a mock tour of the new one-stop terminal building Tuesday at Kansas City International Airport.
No ATM after security
Kansas City’s Keith Johnson was instructed to check in with American Airlines and check his bag. He also had to find the sensory room, an ATM, and the food and drink areas in Concourse A.
“They did well, really well,” Johnson said, even though he couldn’t find the ATM. He knew he was in the ticket office before going through security. He believes that with food and shopping options, there should be ATMs after security.
He, too, felt that the signs should be modified to help travelers find their way around the terminal. That may change as people become more familiar with the new terminal.
“It’s not like the old terminal where everything is basically, ‘Oh, I can get there with my eyes closed,'” she said.
Without a doubt, Johnson said, the new terminal is better than the old terminals. He said he’d rate it an 8 out of 10 right now. He said it’s vibrant, bright and spacious.
“And I think it speaks to who and what Kansas City stands for and who we are as a city and as a metropolitan area,” he said.