What happens when an airline designs an airport?

Probably something like Terminal 5 at JF Kennedy International Airport that’s what. It’s the JetBlue Airways terminal the carrier recently opened with some fanfare.

So do airlines do a better job than airports themselves?


I’ve just been through Terminal 5 and am now sitting on JetBlue Flight 757 to Aruba (which by the way is absolutely rammed – did I hear you say credit crash?) and I will offer my observations.

Firstly, for the record I’m taking the JetBlue experience for the first time. I thought it only fair seeing as its CEO Dave Barger is speaking on Monday at the Airline Business Network Latin America event in Aruba.


I feel I know JetBlue well through several years of reporting on the carrier. And now as a customer I know them even better, especially as they’ve been e-mailing me lots and lots prior to the flight because I signed up to their loyalty scheme TrueBlue.

So Terminal 5: first observation is you can check-in your bag at the kerb. This costs $2 and is probably something frequent flyers will do to avoid the bag drop queues.

The terminal is clean and bright. There are lots of kiosks. I try to check-in at one.


Oops it says, no can read your passport (a British one), off to the regular check-in line for you. That was painless enough and enlivened by some cheery JetBlue staffers.

Jetblue_cheery staff.JPG


Security was fast, but first thing in the morning when JetBlue has its big first wave it is apparently rather different.

The departures area has a triangular reception area from which three fingers extend to the gates. There are shops, but it’s not overwhelming by any standards. There are plenty of food and beverage outlets.


The best bit for my colleague Ed and myself was the shoe shine – it’s not such a common thing in Europe. Shoe shiners Kevin and Steven were friendly and my shoes are forever grateful.

At the gate there’s another ancillary opportunity where you can for $1 buy a JetBlue headset. I’m not sure how popular these are as your iPod headset plugs into the seat as well making the headsets redundant.

The main surprise for me is that JetBlue doesn’t make a big thing out of on-board food sales.

In fact you can’t buy food on the aircraft at all and it encourages the traveller to buy a sandwich at the airport’s many convenience stories. I would say it is missing out on a hefty wedge of cash there – must ask Dave B about that.

You can buy booze and you can buy movies but no grub. The movies usually cost $5 but seeing as the payment system is broken on this flight they are free. Having said that DirectTV is not working properly so nobody getting any benefit out of it on this trip.

The flight is fine as well. I’ve bought the extra legroom seat (some $30 more I think) and it’s good value. I would say the room is the same as you get on the British Airways long-haul premium economy.

So back to the terminal and I’m impressed. I mean there’s nothing revolutionary going on here but it is a lot better than many. Being completely JetBlue branded is an asset too and I think that’s the main benefit.

Dave Barger describes it as taking the JetBlue experience to the next level, and he’s right: Especially compared to the economy experience offered by the network carriers.

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9 Responses to What happens when an airline designs an airport?

  1. Thomas K 10 December, 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    JetBlue Rocks!

  2. JZ 10 December, 2008 at 6:03 pm #

    Good article. Seems to me that Mark Pilling is not a U.S. frequent flyer. Most airlines either offer pretzels only, limited snack options at a premium price or a simple meal at a hefty price. Jetblue encourages passengers to purchase fresh food from the terminal and offers complimentry unlimted snack and beverage options. Some passengers do not have there own headsets, so a $1 headset option is offered.

  3. Mark Pilling 11 December, 2008 at 1:06 am #

    Appreciate the comments Joe and JZ. In fact it was cool to watch LiveTV once we re-entered range of the sateliites on the return flight this evening – got to watch a bit of the new Star Trek – Enterprise.

    I did ask Dave Barger, who is a class act by the way, about the on-board stuff and he said JetBlue will be trying some new things soon, but he didn’t say what. Watch this space….

    He did also mention that he does take a cut out of the price charged by the food concession at his Terminal 5 so there is an upside there.

  4. Jim 15 December, 2008 at 12:54 pm #

    hg: I totally agree. Next thing you know, they’ll be spelling “tire” with a Y.

  5. Mark Pilling 15 December, 2008 at 5:18 pm #

    Gentleman your enthusiasm for pointing out the differences in the spelling of certain words across the atlantic divide is admirable.
    I for one would not wish to curb your comments or pelt them with tomatoes – pronounced ta – ma – toes.
    Now what about JetBlue then – love them or hate them?

  6. Dwight 25 April, 2009 at 3:43 am #

    Love them. Love jetblue. Work for jetblue and has been working for jetblue 4 yrs and going. Notice how many times I said jetblue. By the way, the english version of “tire” is spelt with a y. Go Blue

  7. Dwight 25 April, 2009 at 3:45 am #

    Love them. Love jetblue. Work for jetblue and has been working for jetblue 4 yrs and going. Notice how many times I said jetblue. By the way, the English version of “tire” is spelled with a y. Go Blue.

  8. Gaby 27 October, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    What do you think Jetblue should do now that they face financial problems? How can they increase their sales o reduce costs?

  9. fred perry uk 1 August, 2013 at 12:13 am #

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