JetBlue preps for new JFK terminal

Washington DC
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In preparation for the opening of its new terminal at New York John F. Kennedy International airport, JetBlue Airways will operate a test run of the facility on 23 August using members of its frequent flyer programme.

Slated to open on 1 October, the 26-gate Terminal 5 will replace the carrier's use of the 14-gate Terminal 6 and seven temporary hold room gates.

"Nobody thought a domestic airline could be successful at JFK. We've proven that," JetBlue VP redevelopment Rich Smyth says.

Cost of the facility--the first post-9/11 terminal to open in New York--is $875 million, of which JetBlue paid $80 million and airport operator the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey covered $795 million.

"We expect this building to be much more comfortable, user friendly for our customers, our crew members, our business partners like the TSA that work here everyday," he says, noting JetBlue currently occupies the second smallest terminal at the airport while accounting for roughly 30% of passenger traffic.

Fifteen of an eventual twenty self-select security lanes will be open from day one, including lanes for business travellers, families and casual travellers.

The "signature terminal" is designed to handle 20 million passengers with the greatest deal of efficiency, port authority director of aviation Bill DeCota says.

On opening day, JetBlue will operate around 170 flights from 18 gates, Smyth says.

Twenty gates will be in use by the November Thanksgiving holiday, with 180 daily flights by the end of the year.

All 26 gates will be available by spring 2009, he adds.

Growth will be tied somewhat to slot restrictions and factors such as fuel prices, he says.

Operations at JFK are temporarily limited to 81 per hour between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Under caps, the airline will offer between 180 and 200 flights from JFK, Smyth says.

But during the course of the carrier's 30-year lease, he expects more options.

"We do anticipate that the technology will allow, at a certain point in time, a more efficient operation that will provide for more than the [81] flights an hour. So we do anticipate activity in the terminal to be able to grow over time," Smyth says.

The carrier expects to reach between 225 and 250 daily operations at the airport in 2011, he says, with a likely figure between 225 and 230 flights.

Meanwhile, Terminal 6 will be closed once JetBlue moves into its new location.

DeCota of the airport authority says he does not expect the terminal to remain empty for long, though additional slots will be needed.

"Space at Kennedy is amazing. We've always seen someone wanting to fill back in that void," he says.