NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health

Despite An Increase In Coronavirus Cases In Kansas City Area, Passengers Return To KCI Airport

062720_KCI Passengers Waiting Masks_Moreno.jpg
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City resident Michel Mbula checks messages while waiting for his flight Friday morning at Kansas City International Airport. Mbula said he has been traveling for business throughout the epidemic. He says he has felt safe because of all the imposed safety measures and that people generally are following the rules.

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.”

062720_KCI Waiting Area Above_Moreno.jpg
Carlos Moreno
Travelers near gate 39 at Kansas City International Airport wait for their flight to arrive Friday morning. Even though there’s been a surge in coronavirus cases statewide in Missouri and Kansas, the airport is reporting increased travel with the easing of local restrictions.

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.

062720_KCI Sweeping Floors_Moreno.jpg
Carlos Moreno
Inside the boarding area near gate 39 at Kansas City International Airport, National Aviation Services employees Destiny Hampton (left) and Marie Turnier vacuum the carpet and wipe surfaces Friday morning. 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.

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.

062720_KCI Coronaviurs Sign_Moreno.jpg
Carlos Moreno
Floor decals are positioned throughout the terminal reminding travelers and workers to maintain their distance. Other signs and directions are posted throughout the building noting safety measures. Likewise, the voice of Rex Archer, Kansas City’s Director of Health, reminds travelers on the public address system 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.

062720_KCI Family Waiting_Moreno.jpg
Carlos Moreno
The Gilleland family from left: Tyler, Kinley, Claire, and Abbey while away their time in the Southwest Airlines boarding area waiting for their flight to Colorado. Abbey said they did their research about Southwest Airlines’ safety measures and felt assured that enough was being done to travel safely. “I’m good with it, she said. “It beats driving nine hours.”

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
Your donation today keeps local journalism strong.