May 22, 2014

Birds trapped inside Kansas City airport

“They are diving at the customers,” an airline station manager told airport officials earlier this month. Crews resorted to using nets to capture the bothersome creatures inside Terminal B.

Not all flights at Kansas City International Airport take place outside the terminals.

A greater than usual number of birds, believed to be starlings, found themselves trapped inside Terminal B this spring, according to people who work there. That prompted crews this week to deploy nets to trap the birds and release them outdoors.

“They are diving at the customers,” Jackie Stevens, the Southwest Airlines station manager, wrote in an email to airport officials earlier this month.

The birds are drawn to drinking fountains and have been seen flying into the windows of the terminal in their efforts to escape. They have been known to find their way into restrooms and become even more frantically trapped.

“We frequently find droppings on ticket counters and computers, and worst of all on drinking fountains,” said Veronica Webb, who works in the Southwest baggage service office. “Sometimes droppings in the water fountains are very small and an unsuspecting traveler might not realize they are drinking from a fountain containing bird feces.”

Airport officials consulted with the Department of Agriculture, and nets were set to trap the birds in Terminal B, which is KCI’s busiest terminal. One net was strung near the Delta Air Lines ticket counter and another between the Pork & Pickle restaurant and the Farmer’s Market. The first bird was captured within 30 minutes.

Joe McBride, spokesman for the city Aviation Department, said Thursday that the birds were gone.

“Periodically it happens, just like shopping malls and other places,” he said. “This net solution will be good on an ongoing basis should any more birds get in there.”

Webb, who has worked at the airport for 28 years, said that birds inside the terminal are a seasonal problem but that it seemed to be worse this year, especially around spring break.

Other airports also have experienced problems with birds inside terminals, including Detroit, Denver and Boise, Idaho.

Webb said the birds like to build nests in gaps in the ceilings of the jetways that connect the terminal to the airplanes. Some of the birds then find their way into the terminal building through the jetway.

The nets may prove effective at clearing the terminal of birds, but the jetway problem remains.

“Not only is this a nuisance to us, but it is also a terrible place for a nest,” Webb wrote in an email to The Star. “After the eggs hatch, the baby birds die slowly due to a lack of ventilation and extreme heat in the oven-like metal jetways. The decomposing birds emit a horrendous smell that permeates through these hot jetways which customers and employees must use daily.”

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattCampbellKC

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