Upgrades are planned soon to improve the passenger experience at Kansas City International Airport, Aviation Director Pat Klein said Thursday.
New lighting, new electrical outlets, new seating and a new cellphone waiting lot are coming, along with improved Wi-Fi, signage and a better international gate area in Terminal C, Klein told the City Council’s Airport Committee.
That’s on top of about $5 million for an enlarged nine-gate space in Terminal C to enhance the waiting areas for American Airlines, Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant.
These plans are interim steps to address passenger complaints while a much bigger modernization for the airport is on hold. The Kansas City community remains fiercely divided over whether the airport should remodel its horseshoe terminals or shift to a new single terminal for the long haul.
Council members praised Klein and the airport staff for addressing immediate customer issues for things like Wi-Fi and electrical outlets as the debate over the airport’s future continues.
“These are small things that can add up to a lot for people,” Councilman Dan Fowler said.
Among the planned improvements:
▪ Faster Wi-Fi and better coverage by October.
▪ Much better lighting in the terminals, with new LED lighting fixtures by the end of January. With rebates and incentives, the lighting upgrade will pay for itself in a few months.
▪ A new cellphone parking lot near the airport tower within about 60 days. Currently, people park all over the place at the airport, so Klein said this will be a specific area with signage.
▪ The addition of 700 seats with electrical power in the public areas of Terminals B and C. The cost and timing are yet to be determined.
▪ New Smart City media kiosks, replacing the existing and outdated kiosks that help connect people with hotels and transportation. These should be installed within three months after contract signing. The airport also plans to add much better signage directing people to rental car shuttles.
▪ A new gate and checkpoint area primarily for American Airlines and other small carriers. The cost is estimated at $5 million, though it’s not yet certain how the carriers and Aviation Department will split the cost.
▪ A second new gate and improvements to the international gate area, currently at Gate 90 in Terminal C. Cost and timing are yet to be determined.
Klein told the committee that the airport is on pace to handle 10.9 passengers this year, up from 10.5 million in 2015. The airport had nearly 1 million passengers in May, which was the fourth-busiest May in the airport’s 44-year history. July is slated to surpass 1 million passengers.
The airport is gathering useful information from its Wi-Fi users. Surveys show that of the airport’s passengers, only 12 percent are from Kansas City and 29 percent from Missouri. Kansas residents make up 33 percent, and 38 percent are from other states.
Of the passengers responding to the survey, 56 percent said they were traveling for leisure and 36 percent for business, while 8 percent said both.