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Kansas City's new airport terminal is opening in less than a month. Now we know the official date

A large glass and steel structure stands in the background where a worker in an orange safety vest walks across a paved roadway.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Construction crews continue work outside the check-in area on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, at the new KCI terminal

Four years and $1.5 billion after breaking ground, the single terminal replacing KCI's outdated horseshoe buildings will be ready for passengers in time for the NFL Draft and March Madness.

Kansas City finally has an official opening date for its much-awaited, $1.5 billion airport terminal: Feb. 28, 2023.

KCI broke ground in March 2019 on the single, 1-million-square-foot terminal that will replace the current horseshoe-shaped terminals, which were built back in 1972.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas lauded the construction efforts for staying on budget and succeeding in its goal of hiring minority and women-owned businesses.

“Anyone from around the world who's flying through KCI will see not just a state-of-the-art airport, but an airport that tells the story of Kansas City through our arts, through our businesses, through our culture, through the folks that work here,” Lucas said.

Officials had been indicating the facility would open sometime in March. Lucas, along with city and airport officials, made the announcement Monday afternoon near the new terminal’s check-in counter.

The project has been touted as the most expensive single infrastructure project in the city’s history. When it opens in less than a month, the new terminal will operate 39 gates, but has the capacity to expand to 50.

KCI spokesman Joe McBride says the terminal will be ready to welcome visitors coming into town for NCAA men's basketball March Madness games on March 24 and 26, and the NFL Drafton April 27.

“We’re glad the new terminal will be open in time to showcase Kansas City, be a new front door and a welcome mat," McBride said.

Before flights begin, the public can get its first glimpses of the airport during a Feb. 18open house from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A select group of community volunteers will be spending the day of Feb. 14 at the terminal for a test run of its operational capacities, like picking up and dropping off passengers, checking in for flights, and going through security screenings.

The signups for both events have reached capacity, but if you missed the window, you won’t have to wait long to try out the new terminal for yourself.

KCI airport and Kansas City officials prepare to announce the opening day for the new terminal inside the check-in area on Jan. 30, 2023.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
KCI airport and Kansas City officials prepare to announce the opening day for the new terminal inside the check-in area on Jan. 30, 2023.

KCI Aviation Director Patrick Klein said the trial run will hopefully work out any kinks in the system.

“It puts pressure on the team to make sure we have the systems available to do it and then those systems perform the way that we want them to perform,” he said. “There's a lot of airports across the U.S. that open and they run into difficulties and obviously we don't want to be one of those.”

Klein said he also cautions people to arrive early if they plan on flying out of the new terminal for the first time.

“My suggestion is to come early to make sure you find the parking, you understand the roadway systems, you know where security's at,” he said. “But come here early, explore, maybe take in all the art.”

All flight operations, arrivals and departures already scheduled for Feb. 27, and prior to 1 a.m. on Feb. 28, will take place at the existing terminals.

But any flights scheduled for after that time will be moved to the new terminal. Overnight, airlines will relocate 31 aircraft from their gates at Terminals B and C to the new terminal to prepare for their morning departures.

What to expect at the new airport terminal

The new KCI terminal has been five years in the making, and then some: After years of debate in City Council, an overwhelming majority of Kansas City residents voted in 2017 to approve a new terminal, but using airport fees and revenues rather than taxes or the city’s general fund.

Kansas City Aviation Department deputy director Justin Meyer told the Beacon that the terminal would almost double KCI’s passenger capacity, from 30,000 a day to more than 50,000.

The new terminal will include around 50 shops and restaurants. Concession operator Vantage Airport Group says about 80% of those are from Kansas City-area brands, such as Made in KC, Bo Lings, Parisi Coffee and Stockyards Brewing.

The eating and shopping experiences will be organized by different regions of Kansas City such as City Market, 18th and Vine, and the Stockyards.

In addition to the food offerings, the new terminal will feature moving walkways and all-glass passenger boarding bridges, along with more accommodations for accessibility and inclusivity.

Five blue airline seats lie in a row inside what looks like the interior of a passenger jet. A blue TV monitor is lit up in front of the chairs.
Build KCI
KCI International Airport
A flight-experience simulator is part of the inclusive and comfort amenities offered that the new KCI Terminal

That includes a multi-sensory room, an inclusive family play zone and a flight-experience simulator -- which KCI boasts is the first of its kind in the country.

Decorating the terminal is nearly $6 million worth of newly-commissioned art from 19 Kansas City-area artists, whose works are displayed everywhere from the parking garage stairwells to the check-in hall to the concourses. It will be the largest public art project in the city’s history.

Flying out of KCI

The new terminal is already attracting more airlines and more flights to Kansas City.

Sun Country Airlines will be the first new airline added to KCI’s carriers, offering nonstop, seasonal service to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport starting this summer.

Southwest Airlines announced it would resume service in April to Indianapolis and Albuquerque after those routes were canceled because of the pandemic. Other flights to Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Diego and St. Louis will be increased in frequency in April as well.

June and July will bring more Southwest flights to Las Vegas, Pensacola, Orlando, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and San Antonio, plus nonstop service to Long Beach, California.

Air Canada, which also halted flights to KCI because of the pandemic, resumed flights this past summer then halted them again in October 2022. They announced they will resume seasonal, nonstop flights to KCI in June.

Delta Air Lines is adding a Sky Club Lounge inside KCI for its qualifying customers.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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