Hearne: Time for Local Media to Quit Pretending KCI Doesn’t Suck

220px-Breaking-up-is-hard-to-do-neil-sedakaWould the nerds at the Kansas City Star please stop with trying to equate erecting a new terminal at KCI with cheating on your spouse…

Taxpayers are seldom thrilled with dropping $1.2 billion on pretty much anything, let alone on a new airport. Even when the money’s not supposed to come out of their pockets.

But can we please dispense with the hyperbole about KCI being “beloved” and locals having a “love affair” with the city’s 41 year-old paean to the past? I mean, it’s possibly the dumbest thing the newspaper’s ever “reported.”

greyhoundstaKCI may be easy to get in and out of – and it is – but anybody with half a clue knows our airport is an embarrassment to Kansas City and looks more like a glorified (but outdated) Greyhound Bus station than it does a major metropolitan airport.

“It’s pretty effing embarrassing,” says comedy club czar Craig Glazer. “Ninety percent of our comics fly here from New York or LA and they say it’s the most boring place they’ve seen. And like Jim Jeffries says, good luck finding a cab. It’s one of the only airports I know of where you actually have to call a cab.”

The problem being KCI has three terminals when it only needs one.

46445727.twa747“When they built it in 1972 we were going to be an international airport and have flights going from here to Germany and London because we had all those airlines,” Glazer says. “But there is no TWA or Braniff anymore. We’re down to just a handful of major carriers, so we don’t need three terminals today, not the way it’s set up.”

That’s because spreading things out between three far flung and lightly trafficked terminals, creates a ghost town effect. The net result being that none of the terminals gets enough bodies or biz to achieve critical mass.

“Our airport is horrible,” Glazer says. “Nobody wants to come here unless they have to. I’ve not been to any major airport that has less options for anything.”

Consolidating into a single terminal would breath life (as in foot traffic) into KCI and enable halfway decent restaurants, standing taxis to make a profit. Traffic that would enable the airport to attract higher quality vendors, restaurants and bars.

Yet here we go again today in the Star with business editor Keith Chrostowski yapping about “Kansas Citians being asked to jilt their beloved KCI” and locals having a “love affair” with the airport.

Chrostowski actually wrote an excellent column, outlining the many advantages of building a new, single terminal airport. However  headlines like “breaking Up Is Hard To Do” and cartoon captions like, “We think this is the best airport in the universe” are inexplicably foolish and undermine the larger issue.

373264_102578863691_1876493236_n“I don’t know what he’s talking about, I think that’s really kind of silly,” Glazer says. “I have not ever met one person that’s told me that they love our airport. I mean, it’s so goddam boring. A love affair with what? The one Starbucks? What’s there to love? It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s got my favorite what?’ It has no amenities. That’s ridiculous.

“It’s bad for Kansas city’s image; an airport in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do there and god forbid if you’re stuck out there for a day or two at a hotel. That’s what you’re going to think Kansas City is like.”



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66 Responses to Hearne: Time for Local Media to Quit Pretending KCI Doesn’t Suck

  1. Libertarian says:

    Gee, safe to assume you’ve bought in to the hype?

    We need infastructure repair a HELL of a lot worse than we need a damn thing done with the airport, or a streetcar line for that matter.

    • the dude says:

      Like every argument FOR the new construction I have not yet heard it will make the experience more efficient or quicker or that the airport is too small and cannot accomodate the volume. They just keep using the same BS rah rah ‘let’s get with the 21st century folks’ and don’t give any real reasons as to why we really need to blow money pork-style. I am all for pork money when it is necessary but this is not the case here. The airport can accomodate the volume it sees and received around 250 million in improvements a few years ago to address some deficiencies. This is wasted and unnecessary pork money.

  2. TJ says:

    This line you wrote says it all. KCI may be easy to get in and out of – and it is – . The airport should be designed for the ease of people who are paying for it. No, there is no shopping, but if I have time to shop in the airport, it means that other things related to the airport are not going well and I am not happy with the delays anyway. Fortunately, I rarely have much extra time I need to lose at KCI. If I do, I can always read.

  3. Brice M says:

    Craig must not know that many people in Kansas City then. I love the fact that I can show up 20 minutes before takeoff and still make it on board. Most places you’d still be standing in the security line.

    • admin says:

      If you show up 20 minutes before take off these days my guess is you’ll be trying to get on the next flight or contemplating a hijacking.

      Twenty minutes before takeoff? Those were the days.

  4. James says:

    Apparently a new airport means people will suddenly want to come to KC that don’t already have a reason to want to come here?

    I’ve never heard of anyone deciding to visit a city because they have an awesome airport. I must be doing it wrong.

    • Markus Aurelius says:


    • admin says:

      No, it doesn’t mean that.

      It mean that visitors will not be astounded with how lame KCI is and wonder whether it’s a reflection on the quality and forward thinking-ness of the town over all.

      Having a few nice restaurants and shops has nothing to do with being stuck at the airport. Travelers usually have connections and sometimes you have to race between gates to make the connections and other times you have an hour or more to kill.

      At which point you’re a dead duck at the KCI of today. Unlike most major airports.

      Look, there’s no need to dream up reasons to not like progress. Especially when it’s not gonna cost taxpayers a nickle.

      • Super Dave says:

        Ok Hearne since you and Glazer seem to think that places to eat and shop would be gold mines at the airport why don’t the two of you prove us all wrong. Go open up such places and show us all how rich you will become from doing so. And you can’t write any stories about how bad you are losing your ass.

        I would rather believe smarter business minds than the two of you would have done so if they thought it was worth doing so.

        You know I like going in and out of KCI and only an idiot would claim to like going in and out of say LAX which I think is a nightmare and royal pain in the ass to do so.

        But the point that I think all is making here is that the city is broke in many ways and more efforts need to be made to fix those issues rather than our so called leaders running around trying to build new things thinking it will make all the others go away.

      • Markus Aurelius says:

        Hearne, nobody is making connections at KCI (MCI) anymore. You’re either coming here or leaving here.

  5. Hot Carl says:

    Glaze will find this hard to believe but I totally agree with him. Our airport, while easy to get in and out of, is a joke. It’s time for an upgrade. That relic was built for a different time and a different kind of air travel that just doesn’t exist anymore.

  6. legendaryhog says:

    No way. KCI is by far the easiest major airport in the country to get in and out of. I don’t need to show up more than 20 minutes before boarding. That kicks ass. Who cares about having more “amenities?” Get me on the plane as fast as possible. I can think of no airport that I have flown out or arrived at of when I thought, “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time here before my plane left.” No security lines, a cold beer before you go to the gate. That’s all you need. Screw getting to the terminal three hours early to take a two hour flight. That is just plain stupid. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

  7. Markus Aurelius says:

    So the basic premise from Hearne and Glazer is that we should spend a billion plus on a new airport so they are longer embarrassed when their out of town friends visit KC? Give me a break. I don’t care how many overpriced shops and overpriced restaurants an airport has – it’s still an airport. People don’t go out to eat on a Sat night at the local hospital cafeteria unless they HAVE to – same thing with airports. If the people of KC are paying for the airport, and we are, then first and foremost it should be an airport that works for us.

    Besides, even if we built the coolest most up-to-date airport in the country (which would cost far more than anyone would spend) it’s (1) not going to bring more people (i.e. tourism dollars) to KC, and (2) most of the profits generated from any new shops/dining options at the airport isn’t going to be invested or spent locally given that all they will do is bring in national franchises that are headquartered elsewhere (with perhaps Applebee’s and Gates being the exception).

    Lastly, and I’m surprised this hasn’t already been mentioned, even if a new $1 billion airport would generate some tourism and some local investment I’d still be against it for the following reason alone. Our airport is one of the last stands, from a design perspective, against the growing police state and the growing unspoken acceptance by the media that the militarization of local law enforcement is somehow good and acceptable. Proponents of the new airport like to say how it will create a critical mass for retail/dining options at the airport but the real reason that this is being pushed is because the Dept of Homeland Security and the TSA are pushing their security measures, and the cost thereof, on the local airports and it’s too costly to set up security checkpoints all over the airport. Well, the answer isn’t to build a new airport to cowtow to the nanny state, the answer is to tell them to go suck it and that we like our airport and, frankly, we’ll take our chances.

    • chuck says:

      “Critical mass for retail dining operations…”

      What a hoot.

      I wanna record Eddie Murphy’s voice in “48 Hours” saying “Get the fu*k outta here!” and play it at City Coucil meetings.

      “Hey honey, grab the kids, lets all go to St. Joe International for a quick bite.”

      Jesus, the hot dogs there now are 20 bucks what will a New York strip be?

      (Yes, it will be a New York strip, we will get no respect.)

    • admin says:


      I don’t want you to spend a penny. Do some checking. Taxpayers will pay zero.

      Most of us only fly a handful of times a year. I think that’s fair to say. Some people never fly.

      But there are people flying in and out of KCI 365 days a year and if you check the comments on Yelp, they mostly hate KCI.

      Why not let the airlines and people who fly in and out of here pay to upgrade our 40 plus year-old airport.

      And don’t assume that it’s going to wildly change in terms of the ease of getting in and out. What’s that saying? To assume makes an ass out of u and me.

      We live in a small city. Chances are the parking in ingress and egress will remain largely the same. Don’t assume that improving KCI will result in the kind of increase in traffic that will make it like LA, New York or Chicago.

      It won’t.

      • Bob Sacamano says:

        Like the assume comment, since you are making the same assumption that things won’t change. By not assuming you are actually assuming that things will be the same. Why not stick with what we now know, which is it is easy to get in and out of KCI the way it is right now.

      • Markus Aurelius says:

        I won’t pay a penny??? (cough, cough, choke) Are you kidding? Where exactly do you think the money comes from to pay off the municipal airport bonds (and interest)??

  8. gerald bostock says:

    If the airlines want to pay for it, then go ahead a build a new one. They no doubt have a handle on whether it will improve their business. But rebuilding will never be a popular pitch to the home folks because we’re in and out of there, and nobody cares about amenities that we are unlikely to use. I don’t think civic pride (our airport is newer and sparklier than yours) is a persuasive argument to address what most local folks don’t see as a problem. A single terminal might create energy by putting a critical mass of travelers in the same general space, but is that worth the cost? The airlines need to explain how–maybe they can promise that a new airport would bring an NBA or NHL franchise to town.

    • admin says:

      Gerald, come on.

      You usually get the better of me.

      You already noted that the airlines are going to pay for it, why do they need to rationalize it further.

      One thing Kansas City wants is respect. We don’t like being considered a flyover. That why we take such exaggerated pride when one of our sports teams wins big or somebody from here really makes it.

      If people who never fly or travel much want to harness small time, small town thinking and not recognize the advantages in keeping up in the world today, then let brighter, more experienced minds need to lead the way.

      Arguing against progress is a pretty weak argument to my thinking. And I think you know better G Man.

      Let not the lowest common denominator win the day.

      Not every day, anyway.

      • Paul says:

        “One thing Kansas City wants is respect. We don’t like being considered a flyover. That why we take such exaggerated pride when one of our sports teams wins big or somebody from here really makes it.”

        Do you really think most Kansas Citians spend much thinking about things like this? I moved here from the crowded, polluted, noisy eastern seaboard. I’ve dragged through Atlanta, BWI, Philly, DC, and the other airports more times than I care to remember. KCI is pretty sweet.

        And those folks with layovers? Where are they? I challenge you to go to either of the terminals, but mostly Terminal B and try to find more than a couple dozen people who are on layovers.

        Finally, what’s wrong with Kansas City’s national status? It’s a great place to live and like we proved last July, when the national spotlight comes on, KC can shine.

      • Chris Lyon says:

        How about invest the 1.2 billion into a Super Champion or World Series Contender. This would get us more respect than an airport that is the same as every other airport.

  9. paulwilsonkc says:

    What would $1.2B do if invested at Wheeler and stick that thing back downtown where it belongs!

    • smartman says:

      The way VML bills $1.2B wouldn’t even cover their relo costs. Another $1.2B in legal costs over eminent domain filings and challenges. Another $1.2B for noise abatement costs. Another $1.2B in misc costs. Now we’re talking.

      It could be our version of the Big Dig.

    • admin says:

      That’s a nice thought Paul, but it ain’t gonna happen.

      Remember, the downtown airport was considered one of the most dangerous in the country when it went away. It was fine for prop plane but big jets…not enough room, runway and too steep a climb to clear the river bluffs to the south.

  10. CG says:

    I never said invest. Just remodel. Downsize, add a Gates or Bryants, some stores, a couple bars and maybe a Winsteds…sound good. Uhmmmm..

  11. Interesting Fact says:

    Quoting Glazer, Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

  12. KCMonarch says:

    The bait and switch they pulled when they sold KC voters on the Sprint Center shouldn’t be so quickly forgotten. What they deliver vs. what they are promising wont even be close.

    This is what was sold to voters. http://blogkc.com/images/sprintcenter2.jpg

    • the dude says:

      Monarch, I am pretty sure all this is is a bunch of backroom wrangling where we get sold a turd and someone or some group of people make out like bandits with all the money. And like Marcus said we are left with a turd of an airport that has crappy franchise restaraunts and bars that are empty most of the time while they can implement maximum security with multiple cavity check seclusion rooms for the mouthbreather TSA dopes. Lines out the ass and enough cavity searches and radiation exposure to make a dentist blush.

  13. Steveo says:

    Are you trying to get your job back with the Star by proving how out of touch you are?

    As a frequent flyer, I have yet to eat a meal in any airport that was decent, have a drink that was under $7, or ever choose to shop for anything other than $15 reading glasses.

    Airports suck big time and the less time spent being held captive is time that I relish. I know of no executive that flys into MCI that feels differently. And yes, you can be dropped off 20 minutes before a flight and make your flight.

    • admin says:

      The answer to your question is no.

      However, having flown quite a bit the last few years I can assure you that there is shit and then there is shit. And KCI’s shit is waaaaaay worse than the shit at the airports I’ve visited.

  14. Mysterious J says:

    I don’t know how to break this to you, CG…but the new airport would be in approximately the same “middle of nowhere” location.

    • the dude says:

      The Glazed one cares not about details, DAMMIT!!
      He only cares about crappy chain eateries and lame airport bars!!!

  15. Stephen says:

    “enable … standing taxis to make a profit”

    KCI has a central taxi facility, and at any time day or night, there are scores if not hundreds of taxis waiting for their next fare. It is awkward that the decentralized airport required picking up a courtesy phone to get one sent to you, but that’s the only way to make the queue fair and not have taxis trying to outswarm each other at arrival gates. And yes, you’ll wait 5 minutes for the taxi to come, but you just got off the plane 5 minutes ago — in Denver (where I live now), you’d maybe have gotten to the train to get to the airside terminal in that time.

    Flying out of KCI was great, I could pull into economy parking less than an hour before takeoff and never had a problem making my flight. Picking up passengers was even better, they couldn’t believe how fast it was to go from plane to car. There was a time when Southwest Airlines was looked down on for their no-frills approach and cattle-herding boarding, but when it came down to it, they deliver best on what really matters, getting you to your destination on-time and not making it a miserable experience; similarly, KCI isn’t much to look at, but it’s got it where it counts.

    • the dude says:

      Amen. +1.

    • admin says:

      I’ll check with Bill George on this, but my gut level is when you divide the terminals into three (or even two) and you’re in a small city like KC where the air traffic can be hit or miss, being able to go to a single drop and pick up zone seems a far better bet than being in the wrong place at the right time.

      Did I say that right?

  16. Hot Carl says:

    You guys know I can’t stand Glaze but I’m firmly with him and HC on this one. Hell, the airports in places like Roanoke and Spartanburg/Greenville put ours to shame. It’s embarrassing.

  17. admin says:

    I will say this, judging by the weight of the comments section here, there obviously are plenty of supporters for the (ugh!) status quo.

    But that’s the way it is with many things in life. People tend not to like change and prefer the status quo unless they are somehow convinced.

    And given that it’s a free ride and the people in a position to help make this happen know better, let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.

    The best for Kansas City, not a few handfuls of worriers who fly a time or two every year or two.

    But even while KCI does have a somewhat vocal support group, I hardly think it needs to be characterized by sensationalist media as a “love affair.”

    • the dude says:

      Like the old man used to say, “Don’t fix what aint’ broke kid”.
      I think this aptly applies in this situation.

      • admin says:

        Respectfully speaking, KCI is totally broke. It costs way more to staff and operate because of the ungainly layout. IT’s dated design and look make Kansas City look out of it. It’s deader than a doornail and I understand that for many locals that is just fine.

        All they want is a quick in and out. But for the tens or hundreds of thousands who fly here or thru here, they want more. And they say so every chance they get online.

        Look, it’s pretty much a freebie. Why not accept an extreme makeover? The only ones arguing against it says it suits them just fine. Well, it doesn’t suit a lot more people, so why not go with the flow? It’s not like having a nicer, more functional terminal is going to bum out people who are happy to settle for the status quo. Like it will be too new and nice for them to handle as they scurry in and out.

        • the dude says:

          More functional for whom? The cavity searching mouthbreather TSA gropers? Corral all the sheep in one line and grope/microwave away?

          This design will not be more efficient or quicker for the average traveller going to MCI, it will make the experience worse. Mark my words on this.

        • Hot Carl says:

          Even with the makeover the place is going to be a snap to get in and out of. That seems to be the big sticking point for the naysayers. Have you ever had any trouble getting in and out of a small metro airport? That’s essentially what this is going to be. There’s no way it’s going to be bigger than Charlotte and that place is not only a fantastic airport but getting in and out is a complete breeze.

          • the dude says:

            They will find a way to screw it up, they always do in this day and age. Faster and better my patoot.

          • admin says:

            Amen (to Hot Carl)

            Don’t be so paranoid guys. Nobody’s trying to fuck anybody over, just make thing hipper and better.

        • Chris Lyon says:

          1.2 billion will cover a bunch of extra staff and operating costs. Also consolidation of terminals 3 into 2 would save money.

  18. Chris Lyon says:

    Why would anyone want to hang out at an airport? The hope is to get in and out of the airport as quickly as possible. When I am stuck at one of the hub airports in between flights, I’m certainly not living the high life. The prices are “sky high” and most of the time the service is retched. Damn, I wish The Cordish Group would get involved so we can have another entertainment destination in KC. Hey, lets go hang out three hours before our flight at the airport. Awesome! Oh yeah, the toy train is an overpriced stupid idea also.
    We drive cars in KC.

  19. admin says:

    You missa dee point, Chris.

    Nobody WANTS to hang out at an airport (unless of course, they’re getting paid to). However when people travel, you-know-what happens. Connections get delayed, flights, etc. And people by necessity get stuck having to hang for however long in airports.

    That’s what happens when you travel.

    Why not make it a liveable experience to go with our liveable city.

    Rather than a dump that locals like because they think it’s a quicker in and out. Hot Carl is right, that’s not gonna change. We live in a small city and because of that we’re going to continue to be able to git and go ASAP.

    It’s not like the people who plan and design these things are out to get us. Fifty years of experience and planning will make for an even better user experience.

    • Chris Lyon says:

      1.2 billion is a big pile of money for JE Dunn(probably) to build an airport terminal building for a small city. I think it 200+ million for the 2004 renovation was too much also. I just get tired of nickel and dimed by fees I have no control of. Maybe the extra fees could be voluntary until they have enough saved up to build the new terminal. Something along the lines of “If you want a new fancy terminal contribute $10 extra for every flight your on at KCI.” How long do you think it would take then? If it is such a great idea, Van Loh should personally guarantee the bond/loan on the basis of the need for a new airport terminal(might get a hub, increased traffic…). Pick up and drop off will be less convenient. Centralized luggage pickup will be slower. Security will take longer. Parking garage will suck. Fees will be higher. When they get this rammed through, if we are still alive, I will concede to your wisdom, if I turn out to be wrong. Although I will older and probably even more grumpy and judgmental than I am now.

    • b12 says:

      +1. It will need to happen sometime. Might as well be now.

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