Opinion: Is Kansas City’s New Airport The Best In the World?
Travel Awaits highlights the stress-free and efficient experience at Kansas City International Airport as one of the reasons it's the world's best. They go on to tout its unique terminal design, beautiful art, and world-class BBQ as reasons why folks love it. They also mention the art and the fact the airport is all glass including the jetways.
I'll admit, from a layover standpoint, the new airport is a vast improvement over the old one. There are actually plenty of places to get a cocktail or a bite to eat. Not to mention plenty of newsstands/souvenir shops to browse and room to roam. I didn't check this, but I think there are pet relief areas and places for children to play too.
Yet having just flown out of KCI's new terminal I just wasn't that impressed. First, it's a long ride from Warrensburg, and even longer the further east you go. I mean it's a 40-minute drive from Lee's Summit. Chicago's airports aren't that long a drive from the suburbs. Heck, it seemed like a quicker drive from Lafayette, Indiana to the Indianapolis airport than KCI from Warrensburg.
Stress-Free? Far from it. Perhaps for the experienced power flyer who calls Kansas City home, it might be easy. Yet, for those of us who don't fly all that often or with any regularity it's nowhere close to a stress-free experience.
To be fair, you can't lay that all on the new airport infrastructure. For me, the drive, parking, wondering how I'd find my car in the remote lot when I got back to KC, making it through the security process, and flight delays all contributed to my stress level.
For all the art, the barbecue joints, watering holes, and amenities, it's still an airport in a major city. 39 gates is actually pretty small for an airport in a major city. Yet, it's not like Lubbock or the Quad Cities, or even the old KCI where you can quickly go from car side to airside just by passing through security.
Expect to walk a lot. Not as much as Denver, DFW, or O'Hare, but it's a long enough walk to get to the gates that they put in people movers to help you get there. Security itself is just one big queue line and there's only one security checkpoint. Getting past security, there are gift shops, restaurants, and newsstands, to doge.
The gate area isn't all that innovative either. It looks like an airport terminal, and if you're unlucky like I was, your plane will leave from the far end of the terminal where they crowd four to five gates in an area that's kinda small and crowdy.
The art is beautiful. For those who enjoy barbecue, they'll love the smells and restaurant choices. The bathroom stalls actually offer a decent amount of privacy, and at least on my visit didn't smell. And yes, while I mentioned that you're going to have to walk more than you might expect, for a big city major airport, the walking isn't too bad. They also have kept the concourse in the terminal I was in free from clutter.
Bottom line, Kansas City's new airport is beautiful and at this point still has that new airport smell. Yet, outside of the glass jetways, to the average traveler, it's an airport in a major city with a lot of gates, that isn't very different than a lot of airports in a lot of other cities.
To locals, who have been spoiled getting from car side to airside quickly at the old KCI, with close parking, I'd imagine the new airport probably doesn't seem as convenient or as easy as the old KCI either.
Don't get me wrong, it's a nice airport, and it probably does deserve to be on many "best airport" lists. Yet, the best of the best, #1 in the world. I don't think so.