It was a New York kind of minute. Hundreds of the beautiful people who hang around the powerful and well suited, almost as many of the not-so-beautiful pressies and their scruffy techie types such as camera-persons and sound-persons, jammed into a room at New York’s sprawling JFK airport to hear that they were in fact in American Airlines' new JFK terminal. It had to be New York…everyone was late. Finally, a snappily dressed little guy walks in, tailed by many men in very nice suits and then those short-haired types with radio ear pieces. You could tell who the New Yorkers were: they all recognised their mayor, Hizzoner, Mike Bloomberg, mayor of all five boroughs of New York City, and they all said, “who’s that guy next to Mike?” And you could tell the airline types, because they all recognised Gerard Arpey, the American chief right behind Hizzoner. The airline types all said, “Hey who’s that guy in front of Gerard?” On this Hizzoner was slightly fuzzy, introducing Gerard as 'George' Arpey, but he got the airline's name right, so no one was upset.
Mayor Mike, who gained his fortune from the Bloomberg financial news and data service, said the new terminal that he and 'George' were unveiling was part of a big plan to attract more visitors to Gotham. Bloomberg insisted that people have the wrong image of New York City and that it really was friendly place. All you have to do is ask one of the locals. Hizzoner said some local luminaries including actress Julianne Moore and actor Robert De Niro were taking part in the advertising campaign, ‘Ask the Locals’. We did not test out the mayor’s advice on any of the folks we ran in to, even those who were clearly unarmed.
But we were, we have to say, pretty well pleased with the results of American’s $1.3 billion effort at New York’s original airport, known once as Idlewild but renamed after President John F. Kennedy was killed in 1963. Complete with lots of ambient natural light, high ceilings and upscale retail shops, the facility increases American’s annual JFK passenger capacity by more than 50%, to 13 million from 8.5 million. Arpey believes the project, the largest facility project in American’s history, is critical to the airline’s plan to match or outpace its rivals Continental or Delta in becoming an international carrier, shifting its emphasis away from the discount-ridden domestic market. He and Mayor Bloomberg both admitted that JFK used to be a little shabby. Arpey says, “Our facilities here were pretty horrible, but we had to change. Airlines have come and gone because they can't adapt to changes in the environment. We’re not going to cede this market to anyone".