Despite An Increase In Coronavirus Cases In Kansas City Area, Passengers Return To KCI Airport
Public address announcements urge travelers to keep social distance, and face masks can be bought inside the terminal.
The electronic sign near the entrance of Kansas City International Airport flashes, “Cleared for takeoff.”
Indeed, more people seem ready to take flight as the airport has recently reported an uptick in travelers flowing through KCI even as cases of coronavirus surge both locally and in many places around the nation.
Kirksville, Missouri, residents Crystal and Nathan Simler entered the airport Friday morning with soft-sided golf bags in tow. They said they initially had some reservations about flying right now but had booked a golfing vacation to Virginia in December and said they did their research about safety protocols.
“I was a little worried about it. But I think everybody’s handling the precautions,” Nathan Simler said. “Southwest did a pretty good job cleaning the planes and doing good stuff with their masks. I think we’ll be fine.”
Overall, traffic in the airport was not frenzied Friday morning, but a steady stream of travelers moved through the ticketing areas and boarding locations.
In early April, the pandemic cut the number of passengers going through security checkpoints at KCI per day down to 400, airport officials say. Earlier this month, that number was back up to 5,000 passengers boarding flights at KCI in a single day. (For comparison, in June 2019, a daily average of about 37,000 passengers passed through KCI.)
The Simlers said they expected more people in the airport and arrived two hours early in case of long lines but were pleased to be able to zip through ticketing and TSA screening.
While the concourse areas of KCI seemed fairly quiet, the gate areas hummed with calm activity as all travelers were funneled through a single security checkpoint to get to their respective gates. However, shops and restaurants were operating on limited service.
Inside the boarding area near gate 39, National Aviation Services employees Destiny Hampton and Marie Turnier were vacuuming the carpet and wiping surfaces. Hampton said they had to sanitize everything within reach.
“Anything people touch, we have to go by and clean it and wipe it down,” she said.
Other airport workers said most passengers wore masks and that everyone seemed eager to start traveling again.
Travelers are greeted at KCI with the voice of Rex Archer, Kansas City’s Director of Health, on the public address system. In a pre-recorded message, he reminds travelers about safety measures and protocols to follow.
Likewise, stickers on the floor remind people to maintain social distance while in the airport. Large bottles of hand sanitizer are stationed near the ticketing area and masks can be purchased in the boarding area.
Kansas City resident Michel Mbula, who was waiting for his flight Friday morning inside the boarding area, was killing time by checking messages on his phone. Mbula said he has been traveling constantly even throughout the pandemic for business.
He said most of the flights he has taken in that time have been “60 to 80 percent full.”
“In terms of corona, people are trying to be cautious,” Mbula said. “Everybody’s wearing their masks. Traveling has been no problem. I don’t see how someone could be contaminated while traveling.”
Abbey Gilleland waited in Southwest Airlines’ boarding area Friday with her husband and two young children--all wearing masks and engrossed in their devices.
She said she went online to Southwest Airlines’ website to check on protocols and safety measures before they boarded a flight to Colorado. She said they felt comfortable getting the family out and on their way to visit in-laws after reading up on the airline’s safety procedures.
“I’m good with it. It beats driving nine hours,” she said.