Just a few hundred feet from the current 39 year old terminal sits the future of aviation travel for the city of Wichita. The “air capital” of the world is in dire need for an image facelift as the current terminal hasn’t seen a remodel since 1989 and is showing its age. The current terminal offers 11 gates, but only seven have jetbridges, leaving passengers to walk into the terminal from the ramp. Next month though, the airport opens a new terminal sure to surprise future travelers to the Sunflower State.
Designed by Kansas City based HNTB, the new 12 gate terminal allows Wichita to gain an extra 500,000 passengers from the maximum of the current terminal, which is 1.5 million a year. The terminal cost $160 million while an extra $40 million went into the parking garage across the street. The ground breaking took place on September 12, 2013 and construction started the following month.
Wichita’s airport offers more glass panels than the previous terminal did. The airport claims seven different types of glass were used in the exterior paneling to help or offer different types of coloring or UV resistance. On top of the glass panels, the airport also has 12 glass jetbridges, making Wichita the largest operator of glass jetbridges in the United States. Nine jetbridges will be in use in May while the remaining three wait for space as the old terminal needs be demolished for room.
The interior of the terminal is more spacious than the previous terminal, with a higher ceiling and wider floor. Landside the airport has 29 ticket kiosks and three baggage claims which are separated by two escalators that lead to security. A 330 foot twisting art design created by Oregon artist Ed Carpenter flows through the ceiling of the terminal’s airside section. Upstairs, the airport will offer a four-line TSA security checkpoint. Airside offers an array of restaurants and retail shops as well as more seating than the previous terminal. Airport seats also come with built in USB ports and power outlets, which allow for passengers to charge their electronic devices while waiting for their flight. Flooring on the terminal is specific too, with the terrazzo tiles and designs to look like jet contrails.
The terminal isn’t the only thing that is new for the airport. A 1,600 stall-parking garage was erected across the street from the terminal, which is something the old terminal didn’t have. A rental car facility is coming with the garage too, with nine rental car companies offering cars and vans at Wichita’s airport. A multilane roadway also is something the new terminal will use, with private cars closer to the parking garage. Additionally, buses and taxis will be tucked in closer to the terminal. A middle island allows passengers to wait closer to friends or family should they be getting picked up.
Aesthetics aren’t the only changes the airport has made in the last year. In March 2014, the city agreed to switch the name of the airport from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport to Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in honor of President Dwight Eisenhower, who hailed from Abilene, Kansas and remains the only US president from Kansas. The airport revealed a new logo to honor the changing of the airport name as part of a special unveiling on January 26th.
Flights have also seen some changes in the recent past for the largest city in Kansas. The airport’s most popular route to Dallas-Ft. Worth has seen its route almost double this April with American Airlines improving the route from four to seven times daily. However, the route has been downsized from Airbus A319s and McDonnell-Douglas MD-80s to Bombardier CRJ-900s and Embraer ERJ-145s, ultimately leaving just a small increase in the number of seats. United has also changed their route map too, axing their Los Angeles-Wichita route in March leaving Allegiant Air as the lone carrier on the route, which is on summer seasonal for the Las Vegas-based carrier.
Although some parts of the terminal are still in need of work, including the installation of computers and outlet stores, the overall feel of the terminal is a positive one. Upon completion and opening this summer the airport will start to serve the people of Kansas with a great new airport that shows that Wichita is the air capital of the world. The purpose of the airport, according to the airport itself is that the terminal is suppose to “create a first and final impression that stays with visitors long after their journey is complete.” Something that one can easily feel when traveling through the airport.
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