The new KCI is about to face its first holiday rush. Here’s what it’s doing to prepare

Whether you’re returning to Kansas City for Thanksgiving or flying out to see family, one thing is certain: The new terminal at Kansas City International Airport is about to meet its biggest test of efficiency, cleanliness and smooth operations since it opened in February of this year.

Spokesperson Joe McBride says that the airport is anticipating more than 405,000 travelers moving through the terminal during the peak Thanksgiving travel period of Friday, Nov. 17 through Tuesday, Nov. 28 — a 15% increase over last year’s volume.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is also seeing a small increase in the flights in and out of KCI, rising to 307 arrivals and departures. By comparison, last Sunday saw 294 arrivals and departures throughout the day.

The airport is recommending that travelers arrive at least two hours before their departure times to ensure that any increased congestion doesn’t make them late for their flights.

Here’s a closer look at the preparations KCI officials are making for the new terminal’s first holiday rush — and what you can do to minimize headaches when you travel through it.

What preparations is KCI making for the holiday travel rush?

Improvements to the airport’s operations ahead of the winter holidays include new signage, enhanced cleaning policies and even some live entertainment to greet arrivals. Here are a few of the enhancements guests can expect during the upcoming holiday season:

  • New temporary and permanent signage throughout the airport, including more signs directing those picking up passengers to the cell phone waiting lot to reduce congestion

  • Increased parking security measures, including added cameras, security officers and roving security vehicles

  • More cleaning staff to keep indoor and outdoor areas of the terminal clean as more passengers move through

  • Extra airport staff to assist passengers in the pre-security area, and real-time adjustments to TSA staff to help keep security lines moving

  • Repairs to the terminal’s moving sidewalks and improvements to paneling in the restrooms

Travelers can also enjoy live jazz performances in the Arrivals/Baggage Claim area from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Nov. 26.

What should I keep in mind when traveling through KCI for the holidays?

Airport officials are recommending that passengers arrive two hours before their scheduled departure time for domestic flights, and two and a half hours early for international flights. They also suggest using the cell phone waiting lot when picking loved ones up from the arrivals curb.

Idling or parking at the arrivals curb is not allowed at the new KCI terminal — something security and traffic officials have been tasked with enforcing. To avoid being ticketed or towed, never leave your car unattended in the departure or arrivals areas.

Other holiday travel tips include checking the TSA’s list of prohibited items before packing, keeping all liquids and gels in your checked luggage, ensuring you bring a valid ID to the airport and leaving plenty of time to make your way to the terminal.

The new terminal has three parking options on-site: Garage, Surface and Economy. The first two tend to fill up, so officials recommend checking for parking availability. Especially amidst the holiday rush, travelers may have the most luck in the Economy lot, using valet parking or opting for a private lot off-site.

Do you have more questions about holiday travel in Kansas City? Ask the Service Journalism team at