KCI: It must change with the times

Brent Blake, President, Acendas Travel

Anyone who travels, even on a limited basis, realizes how much the experience has changed over the past few years. Technological advancements have resulted in travel being virtually paperless, bookings processed in seconds and soon, security checks will be conducted through biometric means; e.g. finger prints, eye scans, etc.

So, in many ways, it is remarkable that Kansas City International Airport (KCI), built in 1972, has been adaptable to serve the test of time. Not only through technology changes, but also through logistical evolution for security and growth in traffic. Sure, there have been some upgrades and the necessary maintenance, but the vision and foresight of the design is commendable.

But there comes a time when incremental change is no longer sufficient to keep up with the needs of travelers. Acendas Travel books tens of millions of dollars of flights in and out of KCI. We hear the feedback from both the leisure and business traveler — and it is loud and clear. It is time for KCI to “go big or go home” when it comes to its air infrastructure. To be clear, this is not about needing better restaurants or wanting to have a “prettier” building to show to our visitors. Certainly, those are positive by-products.

But the need for a new airport surrounds issues such as efficiency, safety, security, and public health, among others. The small waiting areas, limited restroom facilities, the crisscross of foot traffic at several areas, and crowed baggage claims all create bottlenecks. A new airport does not necessarily mean KCI will have more incoming and outgoing flights, but I am bullish on our community in terms of growth and prosperity. As we add more people through increased jobs, and as we welcome more visitors, we will need more space at our airport. But when growing businesses are deciding where to operate, they weigh several factors including transportation infrastructure. Our airport is not an asset in that exercise.

While many people decry a new terminal because of the convenience of the current structure, I offer that the shortest distance does not always mean the shortest wait times and best flow of traffic. As noted earlier, the negative effects of the bottlenecks more than offset the few extra steps needed to reach the terminal.

Lastly, it is important to understand that the airport is funded through a variety of user fees. It will not be funded through taxes paid by residents. On November 7, Kansas City residents will have the opportunity to vote on the new airport terminal. I harken back to the days when the decision was made to build the current airport. It was a pivotal moment in our history and was a springboard for prosperity. I believe we are at a very similar tipping point today.