Complete guide to Kansas City International Airport

While the glory days of TWA are over, Kansas City International Airport still remains to be a major hub to the United States and North America. It is from here that you can connect to about anywhere on the continent. The vast area of the airport is somewhat a challenge to get around so here is your guide to the airport.

The old airport was downtown and it was built against the river. The problem was the airplanes keep getting bigger and bigger. Because of this, they needed more runway and there is not much you can do when you have the second largest river in your path. The other issue was the noise and building downtown. The city was forced to build a new airport.

A huge tract of land was set aside for the development of the new airport and overtime, it has become what we know today as the Kansas City International (MCI).

As with many newer airports, it was built on the edge of where they believe the city will build and it is out of the way. In the case of Kansas City, the airport is in the extreme north side of the metro, almost to Platte City.

Terminal layout of Kansas City International Airport

Understanding the terminal layout

There is three major terminals and a smaller cargo one. It is laid out that as you come into the airport, you will first come to Terminal A then on to B and C. The wrap around the runway of course.

Here is a handy guide of what airline is in what terminal. This is updated as changes are made but of course make sure with the airlines you are flying that there has not been any changes. We provide this as a mere service to our readers.

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It is also worth noting that in 2017, voters of Kansas City approved a new massive terminal that would remove all three older terminals. It will be built where Terminal A is currently. During the buildout, only Terminal B and C will be used for flights. They expect the new terminal to open in 2020. It is a welcome projected by many tourists and people who travel in and out of Kansas City.

Southwest Airlines checkin in Terminal B

Check in at Kansas City International

While the process for checking in to an airline is pretty similar at any US airport, there is a few interesting things about doing it in Kansas City.
The first thing we the kiosk to do it yourself if you do not have checked luggage are become very common at the airport. This will save people a lot of time that are just flying in and out for the day on business.

At the kiosk, you can also print out baggage handling tickets. Once you do that, you just get in line to have it weighted and put on the belt to shipped down to the plane. Each airline handles weight a little different but in most cases the limit is 50 pounds per bag.

For some, they still need to use the traditional system of check in with an agent of the airline. It is the same as it always has been. It does take more time but they are very friendly (as is most people in Kansas City). They are very good at getting you taken care of and on your way to see the big mean guys at TSA.

One tip that I have found for checking in is to do as early as possible. If I have a flight at ten in the morning, I normally will try and get checked in as early as they open, for example. This speeds things along and there is little or no waiting in line at the counter.

TSA agents at Kansas City International Airport

TSA and Customs

Now, back to the those big and mean guys wearing those TSA uniforms. It is no secret that no one likes them but they have a job to do to make sure that we all remain safe. Just remember as much as they are annoying to us, they have to put up with every annoyed passenger that passes through Kansas City International. It goes without saying that it is best to cooperate with them so everyone can move along quicker.

The standard take off your belt, shoes and pull out your laptop to be scanned apply. Walking through the X ray machine and getting the wand around you is still going to happen as well. If they have questions, just answer them as nice as you can. (Remember, they are just doing their job too) In most cases, dealing with TSA is just a few minutes and off to the gate you go.

However, some of the things that they do not allow you to have is bizaree in some cases. I actually had some Peter Pan extra crunchy Peanut Butter taken from me once. It is not allowed on the plane. There is a list of things that you can’t have here. Some of them kinda make you ask why but TSA is well, TSA.

Try and work with them and make sure to protect any expensive gear you might have. This is especially true with photography gear. They just know it is stuff that needs to be checked but no clue of the value. Ask them nicely to take it easy with your lens that cost more than some people make a month.

Food and Drinks

Finding something to eat and drink in the terminals is not hard but they do not have the massive food courts that some airport in America have. You will have no problem finding a bagel at Great American Bagel Bakery or grabbing a coffee at Starbucks. While many suggest to eat before coming to the airport, it is not just for economical reasons. There is just not the room in the terminals for the huge food courts.

However, there is a Burger King and California Pizza Kitchen in Terminal B. Budweiser has open a bar in Terminal C and there is a wine bar there as well. There is also a deli in that terminal that has small things like oven baked pizzas. Terminal A has finally got some restaurants in it. There is currently Quiznos (subs) and Starbucks.

When the new terminal opens in 2020, it is expected that there will be large areas for restaurants including some Kansas City mainstays like Gate’s Barbecue and of course Arthur Bryants. However, until it is finished with construction, dining options at Kansas City International airport remains limited.


Getting to and from the airport

For travelers, there are several ways to get to Kansas City International. There is many shuttle bus companies that operate from the city to the airport. There is also special airport taxi companies that just cater to people going to the airport (in very nice cars). However, don’t forget that Uber is operational in Kansas City too!

If you are coming from the city and want to use public transportation; the #229 bus ends at Terminal A. It runs every 30 minutes from 10th and Main that is across from the Kansas City Public Library. This is not the quickest way to get there but probably is the cheapest.

There are also a few times (contact them for details) that Jefferson Lines (similar to Greyhound) runs through the airport to drop off people on their way to the downtown terminal. Of course, there would only apply to route coming into Kansas City from Iowa and Nebraska.

When you are coming from the St. Joseph area, there are fewer options but there is a few shuttle companies that will serve you and I know that the local cab company has a service to the airport that cost roughly $50.

There is a tram that takes people the terminals at the airport and also delivers people to the parking lots (more on that below). It is free to use and it runs every 20-30 minutes. There is quite a bit of distance between them so walking between them is not really all that practical. (Not to mention it might get the airport security on edge these days)

Parking at the airport

Many people will be parking at the airport. They have five different options for parking: economy, Park Air Express, Curbside Valet, Circle Parking, and Garage Parking. As you can imagine, they are all pretty pricing if you are going to leave your car at the airport while you are on vacation.

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While many would not want a $189 parking bill for being on a week vacation, it might be worth it if you need to make sure your car is safe while you are out of town. I normally used the economy option unless I had my motorcycle than I would put it in the garage because I do not want the elements on my bike.

If you are trying to save money (as most our readers are), you might be best to just take the bus from downtown and return on it if your arrivals make it possible. There is quite a few middle of the night arrivals though.

What about the wildlife stories?

In the news, there has been reports that Kansas City International leads the nation in wildlife strikes and that the jets are killing off geese. The truth is that the airport is the leader in the nation and there is nothing that can be done about it. They have to be away from the city and if you are in the prairies of Missouri, you will have bird flying around.

The important thing is that there has never been a crash of aircraft due to the birds and only minor damage which causes delays have happens. The last major hit was in 2006. In all honesty, it is not something that you should have to worry about when flying. There has not been a need to land a jumbo jet in the Missouri River like they did in the Hudson River in New York City.