Kansas City International Airport
Kansas City International Airport
|Owner/Operator||Kansas City Aviation Department|
|Serves||Kansas City metropolitan area|
|Location||Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.|
|Elevation AMSL||1,026 ft / 312.7 m|
FAA airport diagram
Source: KCI Traffic Statistics
Kansas City International Airport (IATA: MCI, ICAO: KMCI, FAA LID: MCI) (originally Mid-Continent International Airport) is a public airport 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Downtown Kansas City in Platte County, Missouri. In 2019, 11,795,635 passengers used the airport, the second busiest in its history.
Its largest carriers are Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, both having many daily flights in Terminal B. The airport has always been a civilian airport and has never had an Air National Guard unit assigned to it. The number of peak-day scheduled aircraft departures for December 2018 was 170. Service was offered to 47 nonstop markets.
Kansas City Industrial Airport was built after the Great Flood of 1951 destroyed the facilities of both of Kansas City's hometown airlines Mid-Continent Airlines and TWA at Fairfax Airport across the Missouri River from the city's main Kansas City Municipal Airport (which was not as badly damaged). TWA's main overhaul base was a former B-25 bomber factory at Fairfax, although TWA commercial flights flew out of the main downtown airport.
Kansas City was planning to build an airport with room for 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runways and knew the downtown airport would not be large enough.
Kansas City already owned Grandview Airport south of the city with ample room for expansion, but the city chose to build a new airport north of the city away from the Missouri River following lobbying by Platte County native Jay B. Dillingham, president of the Kansas City Stockyards, which had also been destroyed in the flood. TWA moved its Fairfax plant to the new airport and also its overseas overhaul operations at New Castle County Airport in Delaware.
The site just north of the then-unincorporated hamlet of Hampton, Missouri was picked in May 1953 (with an anticipated cost of $23 million) under the guidance of City Manager L.P. Cookingham. Cookingham Drive is now the main access road to the airport. Ground was broken in September 1954. The first runway opened in 1956; at about the same time the city donated the southern Grandview Airport to the United States Air Force to become Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base.
TWA's Kansas City Overhaul Base at its peak in the 1960s and 1970s was Kansas City's largest employer, with 6,000 employees.
In 1954, TWA signed an agreement to move its overhaul base to the airport; the city was to build and own the $18 million-base and lease it to TWA. However, the downtown airport continued to be Kansas City's passenger airport; a 1963 Federal Aviation Agency memo called the downtown airport "one of the poorest major airports in the country for large jet aircraft" and recommended against spending any more federal dollars on it.
Along with the cramped site, there were doubts that the downtown site could handle the new Boeing 747. Jets had to make steep climbs and descents to avoid the downtown skyscrapers on the 200-ft (60-m) Missouri River bluffs at Quality Hill, east of the approach course a mile or two south of the south end of the runway, and downtown Kansas City was in the flight path for takeoffs and landings, resulting in a constant roar downtown. Mid-Continent was surrounded by open farmland.
On July 1, 1965, Continental Airlines Flight 12 overran the runway while landing at Kansas City Municipal Airport. The Civil Aeronautics Board determined that the pilots of the Boeing 707 had landed properly within the touchdown zone for their ILS approach, and despite deploying spoilers, thrust reversers, and brakes, the remaining runway distance was too short for them to safely stop in heavy rain and tailwind conditions.:1 Despite attempts to improve the runway surface and improve braking performance, the Airline Pilots Association said that many commercial pilots continued to "blacklist" the airport. A new airport, with longer runways, would be required to satisfy regulatory runway safety area requirements.
TWA's "Airport of the Future"
In 1966, voters in a 24:1 margin approved a $150 million bond issue following a campaign by Mayor Ilus W. Davis to move the city's main airport to an expanded Mid-Continent. The city had considered building its new airport 5 miles (8.0 km) north of downtown Kansas City in the Missouri River bottoms, as well as locations in southern Jackson County, Missouri, but decided to stick with the property it already owned. The old terminals were demolished to make room for the current facilities, built in 1972.
The airport property was in an unincorporated area of Platte County until the small town of Platte City, Missouri, annexed the airport during construction. Kansas City eventually annexed the airport. Kivett and Myers designed the terminals and control tower; it was dedicated on October 23, 1972, by U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew. Labor strife and interruptions raised its cost to $250 million. Kansas City renamed the airport Kansas City International Airport (although it kept MCI as its airport code). TWA, Braniff, and everyone moved to MCI.
Many design decisions were driven by TWA, which envisioned the facility as its hub, with 747s and Supersonic Transports whisking people from America's heartland to all points on the globe. Streets around the airport included Mexico City Avenue, Brasília Avenue, Paris Street, London Avenue, and Tel Aviv Avenue. TWA vetoed concepts to model the airport on Washington–Dulles and Tampa, because those two airports had people movers, which it deemed too expensive. TWA insisted on "Drive to Your Gate" with flight gates 75 feet (23 m) from the roadway (signs along the roadway showed the flights leaving each gate). The single-level terminals had no stairs, similar to a plan that would be built at Dallas/Fort Worth.
TWA's vision for the future of flight that had been pioneered by the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport in New York City (which also featured cars close to the gates design) proved troublesome almost from the start. The terminals turned out to be unfriendly to the 747 since passengers spilled out of the gate area into the halls. When security checkpoints were added in the 1970s to stem hijackings, they were difficult and expensive to implement since security checkpoints had to be installed at each gate area rather than at a centralized area. As a result, passenger services were nonexistent downstream of the security checkpoint in the gate area. No restrooms were available, and shops, restaurants, newsstands, ATMs or any other passenger services were not available without exiting the secure area and being re-screened upon re-entry.
Shortly after the airport opened, TWA asked that the terminals be rebuilt to address these issues. Kansas City, citing the massive cost overruns on a newly built airport to TWA specification, refused, prompting TWA to move its hub to St. Louis.
2000s and renovations
After the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), MCI was one of five airports where the TSA has experimented with using independent contractors to inspect travelers. The airport uses AKAL Security, an independent contractor that conforms to TSA's recruiting and training standards. TSA supervises these independent contractors, but they are not federal employees.
In March 2010, the Transportation Security Administration announced that the airport would be one of the first in the U.S. to have full-body scanners with the first one used at Southwest Airlines beginning in the summer of 2010.
A $258 million terminal improvement project was completed in November 2004. Under lead designer 360 Architecture, the following improvements were made:
- Increased the size of each structural bay to provide larger vestibules, additional space for concessions, more public seating and improved customer service
- The addition of retail space at curbside and airside to provide improved customer service
- A more functional and cost-effective signage solution that relocated associated mechanical ductwork to the apron level below, thus exposing more of the existing concrete and original structure, while allowing more natural light into the concourse areas
- Bathrooms were placed inside security.
Other improvements included new finishes throughout, new entrance vestibules to improve the airlock between the building interior and exterior, new baggage claim devices, updated retail areas, new exterior glazing and a common design for ticket counters that includes sunshade devices.
Following the renovations, all three terminals included blue terrazzo floors which were created by artists Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel (winning a 2002 Honor Award from The National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association). Additionally, updated arrival/departure screens were added, and restrooms and concessions were made available inside passenger holding areas. In May 2007, the final portion of the project, a new rental car facility and additional art fixtures, were completed.
However, one problem remained after the renovation; the modifications necessary to implement TSA security created a situation where many secure gate areas have only a single restroom stall each for men and women. The remaining restrooms are located across the hall, outside the secured area, necessitating an extra trip through TSA security. As of 2001[update], certain gate areas had no serviceable restrooms within the secure area.
In 2006, the airport began offering free Wi-Fi.
Through the years, Kansas City had continued to invest in the three decentralized terminal concept by building multilevel parking structures on the inside fields of each of the "C" terminals—connected via tunnels.
Airport officials and city leaders say the merger of MCI's three terminals into one terminal was inevitable. They cited the expense of operating several security checkpoints within each terminal and the lack of concessions and retail space beyond security, as well as the operating costs of the airport itself as reasons for a new terminal. In 2007, airport management hired consultants to develop five concepts for the future of the airport.
On October 18, 2012, Aviation Director Mark VanLoh said that focus for the terminal had shifted to demolishing Terminal A and replacing it with the Central Terminal. Management determined that the south side project would have involved extensive new infrastructure, which was deemed too expensive. Planners had considered rebuilding Terminal C but decided the A had better access to the main runway, fuel farm, cargo facilities and deicing and is "better situated with respect to sun and wind." Under the plan, the capacity for the airport would be downsized from its current 42 gates to 37 gates with airlines sharing the gates. The new terminal was projected to cost $1.2 billion and create 1,800 construction jobs.
On April 4, 2013, the city's Transportation Committee unanimously approved the plan. City officials said the airport would be paid with passenger ticketing fees; airline, concession and tenant payments; and other aviation funds. They said that the usual way for paying for such projects is by issuing municipal bonds that would require a vote of the residents of Kansas City. Kevin Koster, a Kansas City marketing executive, organized opposition to the proposed single-terminal via his SaveKCI.org.
The City of Kansas City announced the closure of terminal A, in order to move forward with the one terminal plans. Terminal A closed on January 8, 2014, with airlines relocating to Terminal C. On June 11, 2014, the Kansas City Mayor's airport advisory board published its official recommendation for the city to proceed with a single terminal design.
In 2017, Mayor Sly James re-initiated the conversation for Kansas City's potential new terminal. Local design firm Burns & McDonnell proactively proposed a privately funded option that would not require new public taxes. Even if not privately funded, airport reconstruction would be funded through by takeoff and landing fees generated by the airport, not a separate tax initiative. Initially Burns & McDonnell were the only firm to present a privately funded option. In June 2017, Airport design firm AECOM also approached Kansas City to advise it would also submit a privately funded proposal. On July 18, 2017, two new teams emerged to submit proposals to the city for a new terminal.
On October 5, 2017, Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate presented initial renderings for the single passenger terminal to the Kansas City Council. Designed by SOM Architects, the new design has two concourses and 35 gates. On November 7, voters in Kansas City approved the construction of the new terminal.
In March 2018, Southwest Airlines announced that the new terminal would have 42 gates, expandable to 50, rather than the originally planned 35 gates. Later, in June 2018 Edgemoor announced that the terminal would be larger than originally planned, and would be constructed at a budget of $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion (up from $964 million). The completion date was also pushed from November 2021 to October 2022.
Groundbreaking on the new terminal began in March 2019, with the first major task to be the demolition of Terminal A.
MCI vs. KCI
Despite requests from Kansas City, the airport has been unable to change its original International Air Transport Association (IATA) Mid-Continent designation of MCI, which had already been registered on navigational charts. Further complicating requests to change the designation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the time reserved all call letters with "K" or "W" for radio and television stations, so KCI was not viable.
In 1973 Wichita, Kansas, laid claim to the Mid-Continent name for its Municipal Airport (IATA: ICT, ICAO: KICT) after Kansas City abandoned it. However, Wichita had no luck in changing its IATA designation for the same reasons (including the forbidden "W"). In 2016, Wichita Mid-Continent was renamed Eisenhower National Airport.
The downtown Kansas City airport got around the "K" restriction because it was originally called Municipal Airport and so its designation is MKC and for added incentive it was in Missouri.
The "W" and "K" restrictions have since been lifted, but the IATA is reluctant to change names that have appeared on navigational charts. The "KCI" designation is also already assigned to another airport, Kon Airport in East Timor, so that one would have to change, adding delay and confusion. Nearby New Century AirCenter also carries the IATA code JCI (although the FAA refers to it as IXD and the ICAO as KIXD), which could also lead to confusion.
The airport covers 10,680 acres (4,320 ha) and has three runways. In the year ending April 30, 2019, the airport had 116,587 aircraft operations, an average of 319 per day. Two jets were based at MCI at the time.
The airport has facilities to service and repair aircraft as large as the Boeing 747.
The airport originally consisted of three terminals numbered through gate 90, although the airport has never contained 90 gates. The numbering is to make it easier to identify which terminal a gate is in: Terminal B (gates B31-B60) and Terminal C (gates C61-C90). Terminal B contains 20 gates and Terminal C contains 22 gates. In November 2017, Kansas City, Missouri voters approved a plan to build a new terminal on the site formerly occupied by Terminal A. In 2018, Terminal C underwent renovations to better handle international flights. Demolition of the former Terminal A began in June 2019, with construction expected to finish in 2023.
The airport has a consolidated rental car facility at the corners of London and Paris and Bern and London Streets on the airport property. Each terminal has four rental car shuttle bus stops. The shuttle buses are operated by First Transit and REM Inc. The buses used for the shuttle service are 40-foot (12 m) Gillig low-floor buses. These are silver in color and indicate RENTAL CAR SHUTTLE BUS on the side. The shuttles come through the terminal every two to five minutes and are free of charge for all passengers and guests of the airport.
As of March 2013[update], The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has implemented improvements to the public bus service to the airport. Route 229 services the airport on about 18 trips per weekday, with the first bus departing at 5:32 a.m. and the last at 11:17 p.m. The bus also operates 18 round trips on Saturday and Sunday. The bus services all active terminals and provides service to the 10th and Main transit center in Downtown Kansas City, with intermediate stops. Systemwide fare is $1.50 
A number of private scheduled shared shuttle services operate from MCI to regional cities (including Saint Joseph, Missouri; Columbia, Missouri; Topeka, Kansas; Lawrence, Kansas); and military bases (Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri).
Airlines and destinations
|FedEx Express||Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Memphis|
|DHL Aviation||Cedar Rapids, Cincinnati|
|UPS Airlines||Louisville, Ontario, Rockford|
|1||Atlanta, Georgia||297,940||Delta, Southwest|
|2||Denver, Colorado||296,100||Frontier, Southwest, United|
|3||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||196,730||American|
|4||Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois||188,870||American, United|
|6||Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona||163,980||American, Southwest|
|8||Las Vegas, Nevada||137,760||Southwest, Spirit|
|9||Los Angeles, California||132,650||Delta, Southwest, Spirit|
|10||Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota||119,790||Delta, Southwest|
Accidents and incidents
- April 13, 1987 – Buffalo Airways Flight 721 operated by Burlington Air Express cargo flight from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport descending in a thick fog with half-mile visibility clipped a 950-ft-high ridge three miles (5 km) short of the runway. All four occupants were killed – the worst accident in the airport's history.
- September 8, 1989 – USAir Flight 105 from Pittsburgh International Airport clipped four power lines 75 feet (23 m) above the ground 7,000 feet (2,100 m) east of Runway 27 after making adjustments after being told by the MCI controller that lights were out on the south side of the airport. The flight then landed in Salina, Kansas. None of the 64 persons on board was injured.
- February 16, 1995 – An Air Transport International McDonnell Douglas DC-8 flight to Westover Metropolitan Airport, which had aborted a take off six minutes before because of loss of directional control, crashed on Runway 1L on another take-off because of failure of the directional control when its tail hit the runway. All three on board were killed.
- August 21, 2001 – At 01:11, an America West Airlines Boeing 737-300 operating as Flight 598 from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport touched down on Runway 27 to the left of the center line during severe weather. The first officer in command failed to correct for leftward drift and the aircraft exited the runway approximately 1,000 feet after touchdown. Both engines were destroyed by foreign object debris, but the aircraft was repaired and returned to service. No fatalities and only one injury were reported by the 53 passengers and 6 crew.
- July 16, 2014 – An Embraer E170 scheduled to operate US Airways Flight 3408 to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport veered off runway 19L while conducting a high-speed taxi for maintenance purposes. Neither of the two maintenance crew on board were injured. No passengers were on board at the time of the incident.
In 2009, the airport was reported as having the highest number of wildlife strikes of any airport in the US, based on take-offs and landings (57 per 100,000). FAA records showed 146 strikes in 2008, up from 37 in 2000.
The Kansas City Aviation Department issued a press release on October 15, 2009, that outlined its Wildlife Hazard Management Plan created in 1998 to reduce wildlife strikes, including removal of 60 acres (24 ha) of trees, zero tolerance for Canada geese, making sure grain crops are not grown with 2,000 feet (610 m) of the runways, and harassing wildlife to keep it clear of the airport. Furthermore, in 2007, the airport elected to enact a policy of 100% submitting wildlife strike reports to the FAA/USDA National Strike Database. When birds are involved in a strike, whether reported by an aircraft owner or operator, or the bird was found on the runway, feathers and/or DNA samples are recovered and sent to the Smithsonian Institution for positive identification. This documentation is conducted regardless of whether the strike occurred on or off the airfield.
In the reporting period of January 1990 to September 2008, none of the encounters resulted in injury to people and all of the airplanes landed safely. The report listed the most serious incidents.
- March 31, 2006 – A Boeing 737 struck a medium to large bird and damaged an engine on take-off. It returned.
- February 25, 1999 – A Learjet 35 approaching Downtown Kansas City Airport struck a flock of snow geese over MCI. One hit the copilot's window, and one was ingested into an engine, shutting it down. It landed safely.
- March 4, 1999 – A DC-9 landing at the airport struck a flock of snow geese, ingesting geese in both engines and shutting one down. The airplane landed safely.
- April 28, 2000 – A Boeing 727 on take-off struck a Canada goose, destroying an engine. It returned safely.
- June 10, 2005 – A DC-9 on takeoff struck an American kestrel, stalling an engine. It returned safely.
- November 14, 2009 – Frontier Airlines Flight No. 820, an Airbus A319, struck a flock of Canada geese shortly after take-off, resulting in loss of power to an engine. The airplane made a safe return to MCI.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kansas City International Airport.|
- Kansas City International Airport (official web site)
- (PDF), effective November 5, 2020
- AC-U-KWIK information for KMCI
- Resources for this airport: