Rob’s Experience Flying In and Out of Columbia Vs. Kansas City
I recently had to fly to Chicago for a family member's memorial service. I was originally going to drive, but at the last minute decided I'd be better off flying. I didn't, however, want to deal with Kansas City International Airport. So I chose to fly out of Columbia Regional Airport instead, here's my take.
First, I live in Warrensburg, so flying out of Kansas City is a shorter drive time from my home. That said, from the radio station, Columbia Regional Airport has a shorter drive time. Oddly enough, the travel time to Columbia Regional Airport from work is about an hour and eighteen minutes, which is the same amount of time it would take me to drive to KCI from my home.
No, I didn't plot any of this or weigh the pros and cons. I decided I wanted to work on the day I flew to Chicago. So, Columbia seemed the better option to maximize work time and minimize driving, even if it would be a longer ride home to Warrensburg on the back end of the trip.
I also compared prices, and since I was buying my ticket close to the departure date, the cost of flying out of either Columbia or Kansas City was about the same.
Not to mention, Interstate 70 from Columbia seemed like an overall easier ride back to Warrensburg, even if it is more miles and longer time-wise than driving from Kansas City.
I remember flying out of KCI, and it just seemed like I drove and drove and drove some more. Not only that but to get from Highway 50 to KCI, there are what seems to be two or three roads/interstates you have to navigate. In my mind, it just seemed like a more stressful drive. That stress compounds as you find a place to park, hop a shuttle and find yourself dealing with the big city flying experience.
I've worked, lived, and flown into and out of smaller airports, and I like them. There's just significantly less hassle involved. Parking is easier and cheaper. The TSA agents seem less stressed, and that makes that process a little easier. Not to mention, smaller airports are just easier to navigate. Heck, I wound up in Columbia Regional Airport's overflow parking lot. Grab that same spot at KCI, and you'd probably be charged a premium.
As for Columbia Regional Airport itself, it may be the smallest airport I've flown in and out of. It's certainly the most unassuming. This is probably the most unkind thing I'll say about the airport, but it's a new terminal? Frankly, the whole operation, from the outside is unexciting. You wouldn't know it's a commercial airport just by looking at it.
That said, the walk from my car to the terminal, was about three minutes. Not the easiest walk. But for airports, I'll take it. It certainly beats remote parking at KCI and taking one of their ten-minute shuttle rides.
Inside, the terminal is nice but rather utilitarian and functional. Checking my bag was easy, and you're going to want to do that because there isn't the same overhead compartment space on a regional jet as a Boeing 737. Probably the biggest difference is going through security.
At large airports going through security is time-consuming, and you're more likely to run into cranky travelers, as well as cranky TSA agents. At smaller airports, going through TSA is a little more relaxed. I'm not saying it's a breeze if you and all your fellow passengers are going through security at the same time. However, generally speaking, I've had better TSA experiences in Lubbock, The Quad Cities, and Columbia Regional vs. O'Hare, Midway, Love Field, or KCI. On this last trip, I was the only one going through security when I got there, so it was easy.
The bottom line, departing from Columbia Regional Airport was easy. From parking my car to checking my bag, going through security, and sitting down at the gate took 10 minutes. Flying into Columbia was just as easy.
If there's one thing I've noticed at small airports like Columbia, the longest part of the airport experience can be hanging around baggage claim waiting for your bag. I didn't have that experience as a last-minute flight change after I checked my bag in Chicago meant it was waiting for me upon arrival in Columbia. But, waiting for checked baggage is just the one thing you won't escape.
A couple of final notes, I was flying to Chicago and back. It's a short flight so squeezing into one of American Airlines regional jets wasn't so bad. I also didn't have a connecting flight, which makes it attractive to me.
If I were flying somewhere else that would require a connection in Chicago or Dallas, it might be a different story. It might be cheaper to fly out of Kansas City in that situation, and there's a good chance I might be able to fly non-stop from KC, both of which might make flying out of Kansas City the better option.
All that said, for my trip to Chicago, Columbia Regional Airport with its free parking and hassle-free experience is something I'd do again. Even with a longer ride back home to Warrensburg.
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