This last weekend I spent four full days working at the Kansas City International Airport. Some of you may know that I’m the President of my Gideon’s camp here in Platte County and the Gideons InternationalConvention is here in Kansas City this week.
Before the convention begins, we typically have delegates from over 80 countries that fly into the host city. Some of these delegates do not speak English and some of them have never been to the United States before. We want to take care of them and make sure they get to their hotels without having to worry about where to go and how to get there, so we make arrangements to rent several shuttles and drivers. I was basically working as a dispatcher for 16 hours each day, 8:00 AM to midnight, Saturday through Tuesday, to make sure everyone got a shuttle ride from the airport to their hotel. Because of the coordination of multiple shuttles, multiple drivers, volunteers working at each baggage claim area, and over 500 delegates flying into Kansas City on 9 different airlines, it just made sense for me to be there at the airport the entire time.
During my 16 hour days, I ended up seeing most of the airport and witnessed a lot of things that go on up there every day. I thought I’d share some of the things I learned about our Kansas City Airport.
1) We need a new airport. OK, I know some of you are going to argue this fact and tell me how convenient it is to walk a short distance from your car to the gate. Other airports force you to ride a tram or walk a mile to get to your gate, but while working up there for four days I can tell you they desperately need more space. The KCI airport was built 45 years ago in 1972. Since then airplanes have gotten bigger and can carry more passengers. Also, air travel has become more commonplace so we’ve virtually doubled or even tripled the number of flights and airlines. When flight delays happen (and they happen every single day at KCI) the waiting areas get jam packed. Several times I saw people packed into the gate waiting area like sardines, with no available seats and one small bathroom to share for multiple gates.
2) I found out why they call it MCI. KCI was originally called Mid-Continent International Airport, or MCI, and the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) adopted MCI as the airport’s designator code.
3) KCI airport police have a very tough job. Personally I always thought the airport police and security were not flexible enough. Don’t even think about leaving your car parked at the gate and if you sit there for more than a few seconds, they’ll make you move on. Now that I’ve had the chance to chat with several of them in person, I understand why. Unfortunately because of the way KCI is configured, it’s a huge security risk when someone leaves a car unattended at the curb and walks into the airport. Within 50 feet of that car there could be literally hundreds of people right inside the glass doors of the airport. I watched them tow a car that had been sitting there for less than 10 minutes, but to be fair, they made an announcement 3 or 4 times over the airport speaker to let the owner of a 2015 black Mitsubishi know he needed to return to his car or it would be towed. When he returned to the space where his car was and found it gone, he yelled at the security police. I was about ready to go over there myself and say, “How did you not hear them making that announcement every 2 minutes?”
4) Best bacon ever! Boulevard’s MCI bar is in Terminal B by gate 56 and has a great bacon cheeseburger. Well actually it’s the bacon that makes it so good. I ate there twice and asked the waitress about the bacon. She said it’s applewood triple-thick cut bacon. Oh it was SO GOOD!
5) I would never want to run an airline or an airport. I can assure you that running a real estate company is no picnic. The average home seller or buyer is on edge and nervous about their transaction and tensions are high when something goes wrong, but at the airport something goes wrong all day long. Delayed flights, crowded terminals, forty cars trying to pull up to the curb at the same time, lost or damaged luggage. The list goes on and on, and people are tired so they get irritable. I can’t imagine trying to run an airport and have all that negativity affecting my business.
6) It’s a great place to people watch. If you ever want to sit and watch the world go by, just go to the airport and watch all the people. During my time there, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet people from over 80 different countries. There is a constant flow of people that are coming and going and it’s pretty entertaining to watch them.
7) Wear good shoes. My first full day at the airport, I made the mistake of wearing uncomfortable dress shoes. I noticed earlier in the day that most of the airport employees wear those hideous Hush Puppies Classic Walker shoes that you can buy a Walmart, mostly in black. After a few hours of standing on the hard concrete floor, I realized that comfortable shoes with a soft cushion are much more important than looking good. Ouch! My feet were killing me at the end of that night.
8) The shops and restaurants close early. In my previous career, I used to fly quite a bit, but now I don’t really spend too much time at the airport. When you are there past 7:00 PM, all the shops and restaurants start closing up and it looks like a ghost airport. I guess I thought they would stay open later like they do at most airports, but apparently not. It’s a pretty boring place on a Saturday night.
9) KCI wasn’t really built for security. I eluded to this on #3 above, but the expense of operating several security checkpoints within each terminal make building a new airport inevitable. The security checkpoints have forced most of the general terminal space to be cut in half. This in turn has forced the construction of bathrooms and restaurants inside and outside of the security spaces which cuts down on space even more.
10) Taxpayers will not bear the weight of the $1.2 billion price tag to rebuild the airport. The cost will not include general taxpayer dollars. It would be paid for by added fees for airlines, higher ticket and parking prices, taxes on food and drink at the airport, and possibly federal funding and state support. The Federal Aviation Administration probably won’t offer much financial support; the FAA has about $3.35 billion to assist with improvement projects at airports across the United States.