Architectural renderings by design (no pun intended) are meant to evoke Ooooh’s and Ahhhhh’s. The preliminary renderings of a proposed new terminal at Kansas City International Airport, released by Edgemoor Infrastructure a few weeks ago, are no exception. And while there was much commentary about the 2-story water feature and the kids’ play area and a brief exchange about similarities to the Burns and McDonnell design, no one seemed to notice that a basic need was missing.
The renderings show no seats for passengers waiting to board their flights.
One of the most compelling justifications, if not THE most compelling, for a new terminal at KCI are crowded gate areas due to larger planes flying with increased load factors (a higher percentage of filled seats). We’re told that there is no way to enlarge the current gate areas to accommodate the increase in passengers and that the best option is a more open single-terminal. Ok, then show me how this plan solves this problem. Don’t show me a wide open gate area that looks more like a hotel lobby with a handful of people relaxing, doing business, watching kids play, etc.
Since half of KCI’s traffic flies Southwest, let’s use them as our model. They recently phased out the last of their smaller 737-300 series, and are bringing their larger 737-MAX fleet online. So if the three gates shown in the picture above are Southwest gates, they need to handle 500+ passengers simultaneously between them. When these renderings were first released on October 5th, I mentioned in a tweet to @KCIEdgemoor that I would like to see a revised rendering showing what this gate area looks like with 500+ passengers waiting for their flights. No response.
Continuing with our Southwest gate scenario, they currently use 9 gates at KCI. They have requested the same 9 in a new terminal. (Side note: By comparison, they have 14 in St. Louis. So while they could modestly increase KCI flight count with better gate efficiencies, they are not currently planning some massive shift in service at KCI with a new terminal.) More important for this conversation though is where these gates will be.
Given Southwest’s strong brand and unique boarding process, their gates need to be together. The only blocks of 9 or more gates are on the far side of the proposed terminal. But of greater concern than the fact that Southwest passengers will have the longest distance to their gates, is the question of what those 9 gate areas look like between 5:30 and 7:30 in the morning; that time we’re told, when the current KCI looks like a can of sardines. So let’s see what the 9-gate area looks like with 1,500 or so passengers waiting, arriving and changing planes.
There is a real possibility that Southwest’s gates might wrap around one of the terminal ends like they do in Dallas. The last time I was at the new Dallas Love Field I was climbing over people sitting on the floor to get to my gate. I don’t think anyone wants to see a tweet from a #NewKCI in 2021 saying, “I thought we were going to have more room.”
The KCI proposal from Edgemoor might very well solve this problem and be everything and more that single-terminal proponents have suggested from the beginning. But this is the Show-Me State. Let’s see an accurate and realistic rendering before we vote.