© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What is the Kansas City airport getting for Christmas? Busy

Mariana Picou relaxes on her bags — just arrived rom from New Orleans. She was in town to work in the catering crew for the NFL Draft.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City's airport will once again feature a live jazz band in the baggage claim area during the Christmas travel season.

The new Kansas City International Airport terminal expects more than 410,000 flyers for its very first Christmas travel season — a 24% increase from the same time last year. Here what to know if you're catching a flight between now and New Year's.

This is the first Christmas travel season for Kansas City’s new airport, and with even more people flying for the holidays, aviation officials want passengers and picker-uppers to be prepared.

Over the next 10 days, the Kansas City Aviation Department expects more than 410,000 travelers to pass through MCI — a 24% increase from the same time last year.

Because the travel period is more spread out, the airport doesn’t anticipate quite the same traffic jams as it saw over Thanksgiving, its busiest weekend since opening last February. But some of the same concerns remain.

“Thanksgiving was a big test,” said Joe McBride of the Kansas City Aviation Department. “We're just tweaking a few things. Now we have these end of year holidays and we're readying ourselves. We think we're ready.”

As has become a tradition for big events, the airport will feature live jazz performances in the baggage claim area on Dec. 22 and 26 from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

MCI expects its busiest travel days to be Thursday, Dec. 21, Friday, Dec. 22, Thursday, Dec. 28 and Friday, Dec. 29.

McBride says that TSA has done a good job of keeping security wait times short.

“The beauty about the new terminal, in terms of security check-in, is there are 17 lanes that can be opened and closed with the ebb and flow of passengers,” he said.

No matter which day you’re flying, though, it’s important to plan ahead for what will still be larger-than-usual crowds. The airport recommends that travelers arrive at least two hours ahead of their scheduled departure, and earlier if it’s an international flight.

If Kansas City is lucky, it will be able to avoid the kind of winter storm that caused thousands of flight cancellations during last Christmas’ travel season, trapping many travelers in the less-than-comfy old terminals.

At the very least, even if you have to kill some time in the new airport, there’s a lot more options for eating and shopping.

One of the tradeoffs, though, is the terminal has less space for its pickup and dropoff lanes, something that’s frustrated drivers and caused bottlenecks ever since its opening.

“We just can't allow vehicles to sit there for 20 minutes,” McBride says.

MCI does plan to add more staffing to direct traffic, but McBride says that the responsibility lies with drivers to communicate with their arriving passengers and utilize the cell phone lot (located at 680 Brasilia Avenue). The airport will also be ticketing and towing unattended vehicles.

“Basically just kind of stage somewhere before pulling up to the curb,” McBride says, “because if everybody does that, and way too early, then that's when we do have backups.”

The airport is also staffing additional security and custodial personnel to prepare for the rush.

To not hold up the security line, passengers should also avoid any liquids or gels in their carry-ons, including gifts they may have received like jam or wine, and pack those in a checked bag instead. The TSA has more information on what’s acceptable to pack on their website.

McBride says he knows many people will still be experiencing the airport for the very first time, and the Aviation Department wants to make a good impression.

“The team did a great job, keeping things smooth overall and clean,” McBride said.

You can email me at g.russell@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.