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.
KC people spending six hours in Chicago pic.twitter.com/CfxL0xyo6o— Peter Carnesciali (@pcarn9) February 28, 2023
“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.
Now boarding!!! Passengers on the first flight into @Fly_KansasCity get free Garrett popcorn from @SouthwestAir pic.twitter.com/Mrl3nMJNEX— Charlie Keegan (@CharlieKeegan41) February 28, 2023
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.
THE @CharlieKeegan41 has landed in the new terminal! Heyy CK!! pic.twitter.com/kxfl6lMieG— Rae Daniel (@RAEtheReporter) February 28, 2023
“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.