JetBlue Airways opened an international arrivals hall extension to its home at Terminal 5 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday. The new addition, which cost the airline $200 million, allows JetBlue’s international passengers to go through customs and make connections in the same terminal -- and features JetBlue’s signature sleek look, including glass walls and upcoming amenities like an interactive “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” children’s area to debut later this year.
JetBlue isn't the first airline to help upgrade New York area airports, which have earned a reputation for being sorely behind the rest of the world when it comes to amenities and basic facilities. New York is one of the largest airline markets in the world, and it seems that airlines have taken on the role of helping bring its airport facilities into the 21st century.
The issue came into the spotlight in February, when Vice President Joe Biden famously compared New York’s LaGuardia Airport to “some third-world country,” citing its aging buildings. In October, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a design competition for makeovers to both JFK and LaGuardia airports.
"This is more important for New York than ever before,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Our airport modernization plan not only enhances how our individual airports look and act in the 21st century -- but addresses how they must fundamentally work together to strategically grow New York's economy."
But the airlines have already been upgrading New York airports. In 2013, Delta Air Lines spent $160 million to make over its terminals at LaGuardia; now passengers can access complimentary iPads throughout the terminal to surf the Web, order food and check flight status. Delta also unveiled a $1.4 billion international terminal at JFK last year that includes a giant Sky Club for its elite passengers, featuring a rooftop deck.
United recently announced a $120 million makeover of of its hub at Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport that will add 10,000 outlets and USB interfaces to the terminal seating as well as 6,000 iPads for traveler use.
These improvements are necessary, airline analyst Henry Harteveldt told USA Today. "New York is the most competitive and most prestigious airline market in the country, and perhaps, the world.
"The growing volume of long-haul international flights at other U.S. gateways increases the competitive pressure on New York to make sure its airports can deliver efficient, pleasant experiences or the region risks losing those passengers."
Joe Sitt, founder of Global Gateway Alliance, an organization dedicated to modernizing New York area airports, said that while JetBlue’s new international terminal expansion is good news, it’s not enough.
"JetBlue's Terminal at JFK is state of the art, and its international expansion only improves it,'' Sitt said. "That's the kind of 21st century experience, and leadership, that all 112 million passengers at New York area airports deserve, and the kind that's been lacking for too long. But we cannot forget that there are other critical fixes, like the long overdue overhaul of LaGuardia's Central Terminal and the modernization of Terminal A at Newark, that must be completed for our airports to truly see a renaissance."