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Flying into new KCI single terminal: Transforming way people see Kansas City

kci arrival.jpeg
Posted at 4:38 PM, Feb 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-28 19:29:42-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two flights just hours apart marked the end of one era of Kansas City aviation and the beginning of a new era.

I had the opportunity to be among the passengers who took the last flight out from the old terminal buildings at Kansas City International Airport - a 10:30 p.m. flight to Chicago.

Just a few hours later, I joined many of those same passengers for a flight back to Kansas City, the first to arrive at the new single terminal.

Several people bought tickets to both flights and spent the six-hour overnight layover exploring the Windy City.

“I think it’s really fun just to be a part of KC history because we’re about to transform the way many people come into our city,” passenger Peter Carnesciali told me Tuesday. He helped organize a group of passengers in a Twitter thread.

Besides Peter's group, I found myself surrounded by people wearing custom T-shirts. Couples, parents, children, former Kansas City, Missouri, City Council members, a DJ, software engineers and general transportation enthusiasts all on the same ride of Kansas City history.

“We’ve flown tons out the old KCI; What a nice way to send it off. And if we could come back the same flight in the morning, we figured why not. Plus, it’s history. So why not be a part of history,” Jerry and Veronica Sellers told me.

When we took off late Monday night, we left a run down terminal with broken water fountains and empty storefronts. When we landed early Tuesday morning, we returned to a state-of-the-art facility with natural light, plentiful restaurant options, more bathrooms, and more amenities.

“When I came out here I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is our home now. It is beautiful,'" passenger Leo Carillo said to me. "From what I can see now just coming out of the gate, my heart was racing, my eyes were tearing up."

Southwest Airlines operated both flights, treating passengers to goodies throughout nine-hour roundtrip journey.

“They threw a little party for us everywhere we went and it was really cool,” the trip's youngest passenger Cooper Patrick, a middle school student, told me.

Sure, it made for a long night without much sleep, but none of us had no regrets about a sleepless night in Chicago bookended by two vastly different airport experiences in Kansas City.

“We just experienced it in the most concentrated, extreme, and fun way. It was really awesome to be a part of this whole thing,” passenger Lucas Wetzel told me.

You can relive my nine-hour journey spanning Kansas City aviation eras by checking out my Twitter account.

I also vlogged by travels on the station's Instagram page. You can watch those here, here, here and here.