At Kansas City International Airport, the preboarding departure lounges are holding areas in more ways than one.
Thats because they have no rest rooms.
That will start to change today, when the first of 12 departure-lounge rest rooms opens. The rest room area, at Southwest Airlines Gate 31 in Terminal B, also has a concession kiosk.
That means travelers there no longer will have to wait along the concourse before boarding their flight or endure the hassle of going back through the security screening line if they use the rest room or grab a snack.
That sounds great, said Lisa Hampton of Independence, who was sitting along the concourse Wednesday, waiting to board a flight to Phoenix.
Added her friend, Ben Cerutti: Why do you think we are sitting out here?
Because of the airports layout, all main-floor rest rooms, concessions and retail shops are outside the secured holding areas.
That set-up triggered scores of traveler complaints, even after the three terminals underwent extensive renovations.
Although KCI has one of the lowest security-checkpoint wait times in the U.S., a number of customers told us they wanted to stay put once inside the departure lounge, said Kansas City aviation director Mark VanLoh.
Two other departure-lounge rest rooms in Terminal B one at the Delta Air Lines gate and the other at Southwest Gate 37 will open next month. Another in Terminal B is being built in an unassigned departure lounge and should be completed in December.
Those construction areas have signs with a drawing of a plumber and two travelers that read: Were Rushin to Get You Flushin.
In Terminal A, construction started this week at the Frontier Airlines gate and will begin in the coming weeks at Midwest, United and an unassigned gate, airport spokesman Joe McBride said.
All work in Terminal A should be completed in the fall, he said.
The Terminal C rest rooms are in the design phase, McBride said. Construction could start in November and be completed by April.
The new Terminal B rest rooms have separate facilities for men and women, as well as sinks and changing tables. Most other rest rooms will have a similar layout.
The facility that opens today also has a Wolfgang Pucks concession area, which sells herb focaccia bread sandwiches, salads, fruit, yogurt and cold beverages. Other departure lounges will have similar concession areas, McBride said.
As the terminal renovations were completed last fall, City Manager Wayne Cauthen announced that the airport would retrofit the departure lounges with rest rooms. He said that $5 million left from the $258 million renovation project would cover the cost.
KCI with its drive-to-your-gate design was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s before a series of hijackings around the world prompted the federal government to require passenger screenings. The terminal renovations, which began a few months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, did not include departure-lounge rest rooms.
With heightened security screening, complaints about the lack of departure-lounge rest rooms became louder. But KCI officials said that extending the plumbing lines would be too costly and difficult. Airlines, they said, were lukewarm to the idea because they feared the rest rooms would take up seating space for travelers.
But the renovations included 12- to 15-foot bump-outs, or outward expansion of most departure lounges, McBride said.
Without the bump-outs, space for these rest rooms would have really been tight, he said.
VanLoh said he was hopeful that the rest rooms would make the airport more customer-friendly.
Kansas City International Airport is addressing complaints about the lack of rest rooms in departure lounges, beginning with the first rest room set to open today.
The airport is building 12 total departure-lounge rest rooms. The facility that opens today also has a Wolfgang Pucks concession area, which sells sandwiches, salads, fruit, yogurt and beverages.