Kansas City International
Airport , originally named Mid-Continent
International Airport, is a public airport located 15 miles (24 km) northwest of the
central business district
City, in Platte County, Missouri, United States.
Plane crossing cornfield to land
In 2008, 10,469,892 passengers used the
Kansas City International was ranked No. 1 among large-size
airports in the J.D.
Power and Associates
North America Airport Satisfaction Study (receiving five out of
five stars in all categories except baggage claim in which it got
In February 2008, U.S. News & World Report
ranked the airport the "3rd least miserable airport" in the United
States, based on the 47 busiest airports in the country.
airport's largest carrier is Southwest Airlines which operates a large number of daily flights and
serves as a secondary airline hub for Midwest Airlines.
The airport has always been a civilian airport and has never had an
Air National Guard
to it unlike many major comparably sized airports.
In 2009 the airport was reported as having the highest number of
of any airport in the
United States based on take offs and landings (57 per 100,000). FAA
records show there were 146 strikes in 2008 -- up from 37 in 2000.
Kansas City Industrial Airport
airport (originally informally called 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
Downtown Airport (which was not as severely damaged in the
Fairfax was the main hub for passenger and airmail traffic handled
by Mid-Continent. TWA had its main overhaul base in a former
factory at Fairfax although
TWA commercial flights flew out of the main downtown airport.
Kansas City was planning to build an airport that could handle
runways and recognized that its expansion options were limited at
the Downtown airport.
time, Kansas City already owned Grandview
Airport south of the city which had ample room for
However, Kansas City chose to build an entirely
new airport north of the city away from the Missouri River
following intense lobbying by Platte County native Jay B. Dillingham
, president of the Kansas City Stockyards
which had also
been destroyed in the flood.
specific site just north of the then unincorporated hamlet of
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 jet runways 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.
The airport site was directly across U.S.
71 (now I-29) from the Red Crown
Tourist Court where outlaws Bonnie
& Clyde engaged in a 1933 shootout with law enforcement
which ultimately resulted in the death of Clyde's brother Buck Barrow and the capture of Buck's wife
Mid-Continent International Airport
Although Mid Continent merged with Braniff in 1952, Kansas City
decided to name the new airport on the basis of Mid Continent's
historic roots (serving the Mid-continent Oil Field
TWA formally signed an agreement to move its overhaul base to the
airport in 1954 in which the city built and owned the $18 million
base but lease it back to TWA.
The airport did not have scheduled passenger service until a 1963
Federal Aviation Agency
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.
In addition to the expansion limits there were questions whether it
could handle the new Boeing 747
to make steep climbs and descents to avoid the downtown skyscrapers
on the high Missouri
River bluffs at Quality Hill
at the south end of the runway.
Further, Downtown Kansas
City was right in the flight path for takeoffs and landings,
resulting in a constant roar downtown while Mid-Continent was
surrounded by open farm land.
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.
to move the city's main airport
to an expanded Mid-Continent. The city had considered building its new
airport five miles (8 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
At the time the airport property was in an unincorporated area of
Platte County. During construction the small town of
Missouri, annexed the airport.
Kansas City eventually annexed the airport. Kivett and Myers
designed the terminals and
control tower. It was dedicated on October 23, 1972 by 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
). Kansas City's two major hub airlines TWA and Braniff,
along with other carriers, moved to the airport.
Many of the design decisions of the airport were driven by primary
tenant TWA which envisioned it would be its hub with 747s and
people from America's heartland to all points on the globe. Streets
around the airport had the names of Mexico City Avenue, Brasilia
Avenue, Paris Street, London Avenue, Tel Aviv Avenue and so
vetoed concepts to model the airport on Washington Dulles International
Airport and Tampa International Airport because those two airports had people movers which
it deemed would be too expensive.
TWA insisted on a "Drive
to Your Gate" concept with flight gates only from the roadway
(signs along the roadway identified the specific flights leaving
each gate). The single-level terminals had no stairs. A similar layout was
to be implemented at Dallas-Fort Worth International
TWA's flawed vision
vision for the future of flight which had been pioneered by the
Center at JFK
Airport in New York City (which also featured cars close to
the gates design) proved obsolete almost from the
The terminals turned out to be unfriendly to the 747 since
passengers spilled out of the gate area into the halls. Further,
when security checkpoints began being instituted in the 1970s to
stem the tide of 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 non-existent downstream of the
security checkpoint in the gate area. No restrooms were available,
and there were no shops, restaurants, newsstands, ATMs or any other
passenger services available without exiting the secure area and
being rescreened 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 Lambert-Saint Louis International
Airport in St. Louis, Missouri.
MCI passenger terminals have a unique structure comprising 3
terminals in the shape of rings. Each ring has short term parking
in the center of the ring. Thus, it is possible for a traveler to
park, walk no more than a hundred feet, and go directly to their
gate. Arriving travelers can leave their gate, and walk immediately
out of the terminal without passing through any corridors. The
Kansas City Airport also has several off site airport parking
facilities. Slogans at the time of the bond issue were "The world's
shortest walk to fly" and "Drive to your gate."
A proposed 4th ring as well as a fourth
runway have never been built. Though, until the new rental car
facility was built, one could see the foundation laid for the 4th
Kansas City and the airlines have opted against any "people movers"
connecting the three rings. Instead frequent buses take passengers
around the rings. Initially there was a charge of 25 cents to ride
the bus. However following a massive outcry by travelers the charge
was lifted and transportation is now free.
airport design can be found at Berlin-Tegel Airport and Cologne Bonn Airport, both in Germany.
After the establishment of the Transportation Security
(TSA), MCI was one of five airports where the
TSA has experimented with using independent contractors to provide
all traveler inspector services. The airport uses FirstLine Transportation
, an independent contractor who conforms to TSA's
recruiting and training standards. TSA supervises these independent
contractors, but they are not federal employees.
See: TSA Announcement of Private Security Screening Pilot
Among the renovations was adding a
stairwell for the central car rental facility.
Stairs are rare in passenger areas at the airport
A $258 million Terminal Improvement Project was completed in
November 2004. Under lead designer 360
, 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
relocates 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.
Other improvements include new finishes throughout, new entrance
vestibules to improve the air lock 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.
All three terminals now include blue terrazzo
(which won a 2002 Honor Award from The
National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association), updated
arrival/departure screens and restrooms and concessions are now
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.
One major problem remains after the renovation. The modifications
necessary to implement TSA security created a situation where many
'sanitized' gate areas have only a single restroom stall each for
men and women (added during the renovation); the remaining
restrooms are across the hall, which is now outside the secured
area, necessitating an extra trip through TSA security.
In 2006 the airport began offering free Wi-Fi
As part of the renovation, the airport became one of several in the
United States to offer a washing area for Muslim
taxicab drivers, allowing them to perform
their religious ablutions in a safe and sanitary manner. The
installation was funded by the airport taxi license fee.
Facilities and aircraft
Kansas City International Airport covers an area of 10,200 acres
) which contains
. For the 12-month period ending
December 31, 2007, the airport had 194,969 aircraft operations, an
average of 534 per day.
Proposed Central Terminal
Airport officials and city leaders say the merger of MCI's three
terminals into one terminal is inevitable. They cite the expense of
operating several security checkpoints within each terminal, lack
of concessions and retail space beyond security as well as the
operating costs of the airport itself as reason for a new terminal.
Consultants have been hired and five concepts for the future of the
airport have been sketched out.
Through the years Kansas City had continued to invest in the three
decentralized terminal concept by building multi-level parking
structures on the inside fields of each of the "C"
terminals—connected via tunnels.
On December 7th 2007, an update to the airport's master plan
(Required every 10 years for every major U.S. airport by the FAA)
unveiled new plans for a central terminal.
Under the proposed master plan, the central terminal would be built
on vacant property south of the airfield and would hold a
centralized security checkpoint, a concourse for concessionaires
and shops, and four wings for gates. Those wings could be expanded
later, the consultant said. Since the south portion of the airfield
is vacant, construction would in no way hamper current
An extension of runway 1R to the length of has been proposed, as
well as a 4th runway just west of current runway 1L has also been
discussed. The architects working on the new master plans are
Landrum & Brown
. A resolution
will be offered to the city council in regards to the plan in the
summer of 2008.
MCI instead of KCI
Double Monopole, by Keith
Sonnier; twin 60-foot high waterfall sculptures lighted by red,
blue, and yellow neon lights, at the airport.
Despite requests from Kansas City, the airport has been unable to
change its original International Air
(IATA) Mid-Continent designation of MCI
which had already been registered on navigational charts. Further
complicating requests to change the designation, the Federal Communications
(FCC) at the time reserved all call letters with "K"
or "W" for radio and television stations and so KCI was not
Kansas in 1973 laid claim to the Mid-Continent name for
Airport (IATA: ICT, ICAO: KICT) after Kansas City abandoned
However, Wichita had no luck in changing its IATA
designation for the same reasons (including the forbidden
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
The "W" and "K" restrictions have since been lifted but the IATA is
reluctant to change names that have appeared on navigational
MCI currently is a hub for Midwest
. Southwest Airlines also operates a high number of flights (68 daily on
weekdays) and is the airport's largest carrier.
does not classify MCI as a focus city (as Southwest doesn't refer
to any city as a "hub").
This airport served as a hub for the now defunct Eastern Air Lines
, Vanguard Airlines
, and Braniff Airways
. It was also a hub for TWA
and US Airways
. TWA (through its
successor American Airlines
continues to use the overhaul base, until September of 2010, when
they will close all operations at the overhaul facility and attempt
to move a quarter of 900-employees to Tulsa, Oklahoma and lay off
the rest. Smith Electric
will lease out the facility in March of 2010.
acres (40 km²), MCI is one of the larger airfields in the United States.
In addition to passenger service, the
airport is an active general aviation field, and a very active
cargo airport. In 2006 it served 10.6 million passengers.
Transportation to and from the airport
While MCI is conveniently located on major highways Interstate 29
and Interstate 435
, it is from downtown and even
further from common business destinations in the southern suburbs.
The paucity of other transportation options make renting a car the
default option. Most national franchises are represented at a
consolidated rental car
City Area Transportation Authority
operates one public bus
service to the airport, route 129x. It only operates 18 times per
day, between 6 AM and 6 PM, Monday–Friday. It operates between a
stop in Terminal C (only) and the downtown bus center with
intermediate stops. Systemwide fare is $1.25 as of 2006.
of private scheduled shared shuttle services
operate from MCI to regional cities (including Saint Joseph, Missouri; Columbia,
Kansas); and military bases (Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri).
In November 2006, voters of Kansas City approved a 25-year
extension of a 3/8-cent sales tax that will help pay for a light
rail system. Initial plans call for a rail line extending
from Kansas City International Airport in the north, to Swope Park, Starlight Theater Kansas City, and the Kansas City Zoo in the south, creating another transportation
option for travelers in and out of MCI.
This notion was
later repealed by City Council in favor of a different proposal
(which failed in the November 2008 ballots).
- February 16, 1995 - An Air Transport International
McDonnell Douglas DC-8 flight
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 run way. All three on board were
- September 8, 1989 - USAir Flight 105 from Pittsburgh
International Airport clipped four power lines 75 feet above the ground
7,000 feet 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 were
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 high ridge three miles short of the runway.
All four occupants were killed—the worst accident in the airport's
In 2009 the airport was reported as having the highest number of
of any airport in the
United States based on take offs and landings (57 per 100,000). FAA
records show there were 146 strikes in 2008 -- up from 37 in
In the reporting period of January 1990 to September 2008 none of
the encounters resulted in injury to people and all of the planes
landed safely. The report listed the most serious incidents.
- March 31, 2006 - Boeing 737 struck a
medium to large bird and damaged an engine on take off. It
- February 25, 1999 - a Learjet 35 approaching Downtown
Kansas City Airport struck a flock of snow
geese over MCI. One hit the co-pilot's window, and one
was ingested into an engine shutting it down. It landed
- March 4, 1999 - A DC-9 landing at the
airport struck a flock of snow geese ingesting geese in both
engines shutting one down. The plane 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
Terminals, airlines, and destinations
Terminal A has 30 Gates: A1–A30 (A13, A14, and A16-A21 are
Terminal B has 30 Gates: B31–B60 (B40-B55 are closed). Northwest
now shares Delta Gates.
Terminal C has 30 Gates: C61–C90 (C61-C66, C70-C76 and C80-C83 are
closed; Gates C86 to C90 handle international arrivals)
The Kansas City International Airport was featured in episode 63 of
the Discovery Channel
series Dirty Jobs
. The episode featured
Airlines baggage handling system and the airport incinerator.
It originally aired on
February 20, 2007. An episode set to air later in 2007 will feature
Rowe cleaning out a paint truck at MCI.