Yesterday (August 29) saw the official opening of American Airlines’ $US1.3bn terminal at JFK Airport, which has been eight years in the making. Although the terminal has been open for flights for the last two years (along with the old American Airlines terminal building) this week saw the opening of two new lounges and a private check-in section for first and business class passengers.
Gerard J Arpey, chairman, president and CEO of AMR corporation and American Airlines said: “This new terminal gives us room to grow and expand. We have the new curbside check-in for international flights which aims to get you from check-in to the gate in less than 30 minutes.”
The new terminal will have the capacity for up to 13 million passengers a year, an immense leap from the eight million at the old terminal. Other additions are: 44 self-service check-in machines for both domestic and international flights, 36 immigration officers (seeing seven B777 planes-loads of passengers per hour), and 53,000 sqft of shops, including Hugo Boss, Estee Lauder and Lacoste, as well as various food and beverage outlets. The old AA terminal at JFK will cease all flights on September 15, and will then be knocked down.
AA premium passengers will also benefit from the two new lounges, which opened yesterday and are located on concourse B, near gate 12. Both lounges have floor to ceiling windows with views across the gates to the other side of the terminal building (where another Admirals Club is housed). The artwork in both lounges is by local artists and is available for purchase.
The Admirals Club (the business class product) is 11,300 sqft and has 171 seats with 135 electrical outlets for computers or phones. Décor is neutral beige and cream with leather chairs. There is a separate television area, full service bar and snack food area, both on a paid-for basis. The business centre has a member of staff on hand and there are 25 computers with free internet access or you can use the wireless network through T-Mobile.
One new feature in the lounge is the “Global Print Solution” whereby you can send documents to the printer in any of the 44 Admirals Clubs across the world by entering a special code. There are also seven spacious showers with hair dryers, toiletries, towels and shaving mirrors. A first for American is a children’s room with three computers, games and a television. Passengers can purchase a pass to the Admiral club for US$50 per day and US$25 for every guest.
Next door is the brand new Flagship Lounge, one of only four in the world, the others being at London Heathrow, LA and Chicago. It is smaller at 7,000 sqft but has the same décor and amenities except the food, drink and internet access are complimentary. There are seven showers, a business centre with six Lenovo computers and another three Lenovo laptops in the cyber café. The lounge is exclusive to full-fare first class ticket holders, OneWorld Emerald level cardholders and American Executive Platinum cardholders travelling internationally – day passes cannot be bought for the Flagship lounge.
With current restrictions on international travellers entering the US, one of the aims of the new terminal is to make New York more accessible to international visitors, making transfer and immigration times shorter and a more pleasant experience.
Jonathan M Tisch, chairman of the board of directors of NYC & Company (the city’s official tourist board), which is working closely with American Airlines, admitted: “It’s very difficult to get a visa and we have found that travellers are more concerned about customs and immigration at the airport than about crime and the threat of terrorism. Of course we understand we need secure borders but we also need to open doors.”
New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “The experience of entering the country has to change. Travellers complain of immigration officers being rude and disrespectful, not all of them but some of them, and this has to change.” When asked about the continuing increased security international travellers face, he added that while the safety of the American people should not be dismissed “this country cannot survive if we cut off the rest of the world. We want to make New York a destination that you can come and go to easily.”
Report by Felicity Cousins