Delta Airlines has decided they want to take New York. And they’re going after it in a big way. In an effort to gain top market share in the region, the airline is expanding their footprint by investing $1.2 billion in the redevelopment and expansion of Terminal 4 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport into a new state-of-the-art hub.
“We want to be New York’s carrier of choice,” said Gail Grimmett, Delta’s senior vice president in New York. “New York is the most competitive aviation market in the world and it’s one of the most critical business markets,” she said. “If you’re going to be in New York, you need to invest.”
Competition Is Tough
The market is indeed lucrative, and the competition isn’t just sitting by as Delta takes the lead. JetBlue, as a large carrier in the NY metro market for domestic and Caribbean travel, spent $743 million on a renovation of Terminal 5 at JFK which was completed in 2008. And American Airlines completed their $1.3 billion Terminal 8 update in 2007. Meanwhile, United Airlines, as a result of their merger with Continental, recently put $2 billion into a new terminal at nearby Newark Airport.
Delta currently serves over a quarter of JFK’s passengers every year, using Terminal 2 for domestic travel and the old Pan Am “Flying Saucer” Terminal 3 for international flights. The complete relocation from Terminal 3 will be complete by May 2013, and eventually it will be demolished and paved for parking by 2015. Even though it is an architectural icon, Frommer’s has ranked the Pan Am Terminal 3 as the world’s worst airline terminal. It is unlikely to be missed by passengers who’ve suffered 50 years of long lines at customs in a clammy basement, with no nearby food or shopping, and taxi service outside the terminal scarce.
The new Terminal 4 will make inter-terminal connections easier with updated walkways and automated people movers. Self serve kiosks will speed up the check-in process in the new high style lobby, security checkpoints will be consolidated, and customs and immigration facilities will be expanded. In acknowledgement of personal device use by nearly every passenger these days, 75% of the seats in the terminal will have power plugs. And Delta is amping up their kid-inspired Delta Sky Zone concept which will provide a safe space in which to keep unaccompanied minors busy with educational materials, individual play stations and X-Box 360 video games.
Outside the terminal, twin taxiways will be constructed so aircraft will be able to approach the gates without having to wait for other planes to depart first. This time savings will allow additional flights each day. And an additional 346,000 square feet of terminal space will allow nine new gates to be added, making it possible to handle an additional five million passengers annually.
The project is on budget and proceeding on schedule, and is expected to add 10,000 construction related and airport jobs to the area by 2014, bringing an estimated $500 million in personal income to the region. By the time the project is completed, Delta’s total New York operations will contribute over $19 billion annually to the economy. And finally JFK can get itself removed from the world’s worst terminal list.