Suburban frequent fliers were sharply divided Thursday night over whether Kansas City International Airport needs a new terminal or just renovations to its existing three-terminal configuration.
“I think it’s time. We’re well overdue for a new terminal,” J.L. Johnson, of Lee’s Summit, told a citizens task force that will soon make recommendations on the future of Kansas City International Airport.
Johnson, a management consultant who flies regularly, said KCI is convenient when the weather is great and flights are on time, but isn’t very comfortable when conditions aren’t ideal. He said he and his 3-year-old son felt trapped at the airport on a bad-weather day when their flight was delayed three hours. Terminal B was cramped, with nowhere to sit, minimal food options and lousy WiFi.
But Kevin Farley, a frequent flier from Overland Park, said KCI works just fine most of the time, and he urged the task force to preserve an airport that local travelers love.
“The new terminal concept is unneeded,” he said, adding that renovating the existing terminals is a far more affordable solution.
Thursday night’s town hall meeting was the last of four that the task force held to gather public comment and perspectives about how to modernize Kansas City’s 42-year-old airport. While the first town hall meeting, in the Northland, was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping KCI as is, Thursday night’s audience of about 45 people offered more mixed views.
Ed Prince, of Lenexa, said he knows everyone is talking about how to preserve “convenience” at KCI. But he worried that airport planners will emphasize what’s convenient for government bureaucrats, and not for the traveling public.
Gregory Falen, of Overland Park, said he thinks Kansas City does need a more impressive airport as the front door to the city, and better amenities that other big city airports provide.
“We do need to think bigger instead of smaller,” he said.
But Falen wondered why Kansas City can’t find some compromise between old and new, figuring out a way to adapt what’s best about the existing terminals while also building something new.
The task force has been meeting regularly since June and has gathered voluminous information on the airport’s operations, finances and capital improvements planning. The group now appears to be focusing on two possible options — major capital improvements to at least two of the existing terminals, B and C, or replacing the three terminals with a new terminal.
The group hopes to issue its recommendation in late April.