CAROLE SHIFRIN NEW YORK Billions of dollars are being pumped into New York's once run-down Kennedy airport to make the USA's east coast gateway fit for the 21st century

A largely faded symbol of the new world of international aviation, New York's John F Kennedy International Airport is undergoing a $9 billion-plus restoration. Soon it will be virtually unrecognisable to travellers who have braved its congested roads and run-down terminals in recent years.

Robert Kelly, director of aviation for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey stands on the rooftop of a new four-story parking building. "From here," he indicates, "everything you see has recently been constructed, is under construction or soon will be under construction. We are going to make JFK a world-class airport once again."

The public and private funds being spent on the redevelopment include an estimated $5 billion for the demolition and replacement of most of the airport's nine major 1950s- and 1960s-style terminals and substantial renovation of the others; nearly $2 billion for infrastructure improvements throughout the airport, including new roadways, direct access from key expressways, parking garages and upgraded utilities, including a new cogeneration plant; $1.5 billion for a new light rail line which will link all terminals together and also go to midtown Manhattan; and $650 million in aviation infrastructure improvements.

With its predominance of individual airline terminals, Kennedy's redevelopment reflects the difficulties that airport planners have by the constantly shifting global airline alliances, with accompanying carriers desires to share facilities or at least improve connectibility with their partners. It also provides a workshop for the diverse approaches to planning, financing and building new terminals.

Foreign operators

But one of the most visible signs of change at Kennedy is a new terminal, opened last year by Air France, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Lufthansa German Airlines to house their international flights. "This is the only foreign flag facility in the USA operated by four foreign airlines," says Paul Demkovich, executive director of Terminal One Management. The terminal has attracted six tenants, including Virgin Atlantic Airways and Singapore Airlines, and charges a per-passenger fee for its use.

Built on the site of the abandoned Eastern Airlines terminal, the $435 million Terminal 1 is the first new passenger building on the airport in almost 30 years. The 58,900m2 (634,000ft2) build-ing, containing the latest in passenger and aircraft handling technologies, is filled with natural light from the soaring glass-and-steel construction that has become the norm for new terminals. It contains 11 gates, nine that can accommodate the Boeing 747-400, two that can take new-generation large aircraft. A 210m-wide ticketing lobby has four islands with 92 passenger check-in and 32 sales positions, which can be used interchangeably by any of the resident airlines, depending on need. Common-use computer monitors are plugged into an individual airline's system through software pass codes.

The terminal, with a projected capacity of 3.6 million passengers a year, has its customs and immigration facility, capable of processing 2,200 arriving international passengers an hour. Because the terminal is used solely for international flights, it has the only "cash-and-carry" duty-free retail stores in the country. (At other US airports, duty-free purchases are delivered to departing passengers as they board their flights.) The terminal also has built-in capability to serve domestic flights.

Terminal 1 boasts the latest in electronically controlled sloping loading bridges at each gate, providing departing passengers with direct access to an aircraft from the upper terminal level. The bridges can be lowered so that arriving passengers move directly to immigration and customs facilities on the lower level, with no stairs involved.

Also taking shape is a new Terminal 4, still being used by more than 40, mostly international, airlines even while under construction. The existing terminal, formerly the international arrivals building, is being dismantled in stages as parts of the new 140,000m2 steel-and-glass structure are completed. A new six-gate west concourse will be open by the end of the year. The east concourse, with 10 gates, will be completed in May 2001. And Terminal 4 can expand to another 20 gates or more.

Terminal 4

Unlike Terminal 1, whose four airline owners created a company to develop, finance, design, construct and operate it, Terminal 4 is the brain-child of a consortium made up of Schiphol USA, an American affiliate of the company that operates Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport; LCOR, a large real estate developer, and investment banking firm Lehman Brothers. In 1997, the joint venture became the first non-airline private-sector team to manage and redevelop a major US airport facility.

Modelled after the west terminal building at Schiphol, Terminal 4 will have a retail concourse spanning the equivalent of four city blocks. Its centralised ticketing hall will initially have 108 check-in counters, also structured for common use among the airline tenants.

A 24-hour facility, Terminal 4's federal inspection service will process 3,200 arriving passengers per hour. Its gates will accommodate widebody aircraft, with four able to accept any of the new large aircraft concepts, including a double-decker Airbus. Also like Terminal 1, the gates will have electronically controlled sloping bridges, eliminating stairs for arriving or departing passengers.

Additionally, Terminal 4 will be the only passenger facility with an AirTrain light rail station inside the terminal itself. AirTrain, to be operating by 2002, will serve six stations in the central terminal area - taking 8m to make the 4km loop in either direction. A year later, extensions to off-airport parking, a rental car centre and stations of the Long Island Rail Road and New York City subway system will be complete.

Independent ownership

With no airline owners, Terminal 4 officials have been emphasising their independence in marketing to prospective tenants. "It makes a big difference," says Henk Guitjens, airline marketing director of Kennedy International Air Terminal, the project's formal name. "If you have an independent terminal like ours, every airline is very important to us," he said. "We take care of everyone equally; there is no favouritism."

In a terminal owned by carriers, he says: "When push comes to shove, their priority is with themselves, not with the carrier they are hosting". Terminal 4 will also be charging tenants defined fees for defined services, he said, so airlines do not pay for services they don't need.

Although contracts are not expected to be signed until next year, Terminal 4 hopes to have current tenants KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Alitalia and El Al as anchors. Officials also hope to attract a strong domestic carrier to increase the percentage of domestic traffic to 20-25%, up from 12%. "It would be a nice balance," Guitjens says, since international departures are so concentrated in the late afternoon and early evening. The term-inal can handle 6 million passengers annually but capacity can be doubled, depending on the mix of traffic.

In an environment of changing global alliances, Guitjens says the possibility of expanding is important to allow carriers to consolidate operations with a new partner. "One thing you never know is what new alliances will be formed," he adds.

American Airlines is beginning a seven-year programme to build the largest passenger terminal at Kennedy, a $1 billion venture that will require the demolition of its existing two terminals - Terminal 8 and 9 - and their replacement with a mega-terminal with 59 gates - 41 for large jets and 18 for American Eagle's regional jets. Designed to accommodate more than 14 million passengers annually, the mammoth 184,000m2 terminal, with three concourses, will be built in four phases for completion by summer 2006.

"It'll be large enough to bring all code-sharing and non-code sharing partners into the new building by 2006," says William Morton, American's managing director at Kennedy. "It's not set, but it's big enough."

American goes it alone

In contrast to the airline group that built Terminal 1 and the private joint venture building Terminal 4, American is going solo in the design, construction and financing of the facility.

Next to make changes to a terminal will be United Airlines, which currently splits its operations between two terminals, leasing six gates for international flights from British Airways at Terminal 7 and six gates in Terminal 6 for its domestic services. Although not yet approved by the port authority, United is expected to take over the lease of Terminal 6 and renovate it extensively to accommodate both domestic and international flights and consolidate its operations. Estimated to cost about $350 million, the upgraded terminal will have 15 gates to start. If construction begins early next year, it would be completed in 2002.

In the interim, Terminal 6 also will become home to JetBlue Airways, the new entrant set to use Kennedy as its hub for low-fare flights. JetBlue, which will begin flights early next year initially to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Buffalo, New York, is also weighing its longer-term options, including the possibility of building a new stand-alone terminal.

Delta Air Lines, which operates arguably from the most unwieldy, least consumer-friendly, facilities at Kennedy, appears to be furthest from making a decision on its future there. A Delta official says the airline initiated an economic feasibility assessment of its Kennedy operations in 1998 and determined that it should explore a major new terminal there. "At this point, we have no timetable; we have not made any decisions," the official says.

Delta will be under increased pressure as its competitors build sleek new facilities, however. An industry source says he expects Delta will decide to demolish its current facilities - Terminals 2 and 3, which it acquired from Pan American World Airways in 1991 - and construct a brand new terminal, at a cost that could approach $1 billion. "The only solution is to bulldoze the thing," says one source who worked at Terminal 3.

Craig Jenks, principal of Airline/ Aircraft Projects, says Delta's decision on its Kennedy facilities is important because it is likely to be in tandem with a decision on how aggressively to expand Kennedy. "If Delta goes with a less ambitious plan, it may mean it cedes Kennedy to American in the same way it ceded Los Angeles International to United," Jenks says. "If you think of Kennedy as a hub to Europe - what the future of Kennedy is all about - it is Delta which has more destinations to it." This summer, Delta operated 55 daily departures from Kennedy to 18 international and 22 domestic destinations.

Delta's ambitions

British Airways, which renovated its Terminal 7 eight years ago, is also involved in an upgrade. A $150 million investment by BA and the port authority includes a major expansion of the building, new access roadways and a multi-story car park. Trans World Airlines has consolidated its operations in the Eero Saarinen-designed Terminal 5.

Although Kennedy's passenger count dropped 2.8% last year to 31.4 million - 17-18 million are international passengers - the airport is expected to grow considerably in the future and could easily accommodate 45-50 million in time, according to Barry Abramowitz, assistant director of the port authority's aviation capital programme. "That matches what the road, runway, airspace and terminal capacity can handle.

"We really have room to grow at Kennedy," he says, adding that it has four long runways and twice the acreage of Newark International Airport.

Abramowitz's view is that the port authority understands that the global airline industry continues to evolve and wants to make sure it can accommodate future shifts, including in alliance partners. "We do try to anticipate the need for change," he says. "Before the paint was dry in Terminal 1, some of the carriers formed alliances with ones at other terminals, sometimes at the other end."

Although carriers cannot immediately co-locate with their partners - and the AirTrain light rail will help improve connectibility - Abramowitz says the port authority recognises that some carriers may want to move at some point.

To that end, it is trying to make sure that airlines build individual terminal projects that are integrated within the airport's master plan so that carriers may realign. As a result, in discussions about renovating or rebuilding terminals, the port authority is seeking, where appropriate, to build flexibility into its contracts, he says, in case one day there is a need to connect terminals together. "We will not allow them to build in a way that creates an isolated structure that can never be connected," Abramowitz said.

New York Airport System - 1998


Passenger numbers

Frequencies weekly (OAG data)








Dom us



Share of frequencies

New York









Continental (57.1%)

United (7.8%)

US Airways (5.6%)

New York









American (26.4%)

TWA (22.1%)

Delta (11.8%)

New York

La Guardia








US Airways (5.1%)

Delta (23.7%)

American (12.3%)

Other East Coast Airports - 1998


Logan Int'l








Delta (28.6

US Airways (25.7%)

American (9.5%)










US Airways (67.5%)

Delta (5.6%)

United (5.2%)


R.Reagan Nat'l








US Airways (46.6%)

Delta (12.8%)

American (11.3%)


Dulles Int'l








United (60.8%)

US Airways (18.9%)

Delta (5.3%)


Wash Int'l








US Airways (41.3%

Southwest (24.2%)

United (5.9%)


Significant growth

While historically Kennedy has been New York's international gateway airport, three others in the metropolitan area have grown in significance and are themselves being developed (see sidebar). Each caters to a different market. Centrally-located LaGuardia is a key business airport, with frequent shuttle services during the day. These include the Delta Shuttle and US Airways Shuttle services to Boston and Washington DC Continental Airlines, meanwhile, has grown Newark into a major hub for domestic and international flights; the airport is now a popular alternative for other carriers.

A fourth airport, Islip, has attracted low-cost carriers recently. These include Delta Express and US Airways' MetroJet. But the most significant newcomer to Islip this year, almost guaranteeing further growth, is Southwest Airlines.

While JFK's redevelopment proceeds, a political brawl - involving New York and New Jersey governors and mayors - continues over how Kennedy and the two other major of the metropolitan New York airports LaGuardia and Newark should be run.

New York's Mayor Rudolph Guiliani has asked the port authority to hand control of Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports back to the city so their management could be privatised. But that is unlikely to happen soon. The Port Authority's control over Kennedy and LaGuardia Airport does not end until 2015 - and its lease of Newark runs even longer.

The New York triangle

While JFK New York's flagship international airport undergoes a total transformation, major capital projects continue at Newark International Airport, which is also operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

At Newark, which served more passengers last year than JFK, Continental Airlines has just begun constructing a new concourse which will add 12 new "convertible" gates to the 44 it uses at Terminal C. The new gates will be used increasingly for Continental's growing fleet of Boeing 777 widebodies but also can be used for up to 19 narrow-body aircraft.

Part of Continental's "Global Gateway Program", the concourse will also include a new international baggage facility and a satellite Federal Inspection Service to process up to 1,500 incoming international passengers an hour, as well as improvements to concessions, restaurants and toilets throughout Terminal C. The concourse will add 55,740m2 to the 92,900m2 terminal building.

Other projects being developed include a new cargo facility, a second widebody aircraft maintenance hangar to accommodate the 777, and a new engine shop.

The improvements, to be completed in 2002, will cost around $800 million and are being partly financed by $730.4 million of tax-exempt bonds issued through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

In addition to the work on Continental facilities, the port authority is also spending $200 million on the airport's infrastructure. This includes extending one of Newark's main runways, the creation of additional traffic lanes in front of Terminal C and the doubling of parking with a new 3,400-space garage.

Barry Abramowitz, assistant director of the Aviation Capital Program for the port authority, said growth at Newark - which served 32.5 million passengers last year - has been spurred by its increasing popularity for international flights by Continental and other carriers, along with the accompanying impact on domestic traffic. Newark's international service has been growing about 20% a year and now represents about 20% of all Newark traffic. Traffic overall was up 5.2% in 1998.

Continental, which has a 56% capacity share at Newark, has been especially aggressive in boosting international services and now operates to 17 destinations in Europe and the Middle East, 16 in Latin America and one in Japan. As well as the 44 gates currently in use in Terminal C, it also uses five in other terminals for flights to Chicago, Atlanta and London. Overall, Continental and its regional carrier, Continental Express, operate 357 daily departures to112 destinations.

A Continental official says it is unlikely that the carrier would add many more flights at Newark, but generally would grow by putting larger aircraft on existing flights. "We're landlocked and air-space-locked here," he says.

LaGuardia Airport, which is also operated by the port authority, has undergone considerable improvements, including expansion and modernisation of the central terminal building, a doubling of the frontage roadways, which cut traffic jams substantially, and construction of a new terminal by US Airways. Additional roadway construction is planned, and a proposal to modernise the con-courses off the main terminal building is being considered. Last year, LaGuardia traffic in creased by 5.7% to 22.8 million passengers.

Source: Airline Business