Delta Finally Reveals JFK Terminal Plans

In 1960, Pan Am built the Worldport at JFK. This terminal, now known just as Terminal 3 (or preferably as the ThirdWorldport), was a gem for the airline, but it quickly showed its obsolescence. It was tired by the 1980s and when Delta took it over in the early 1990s, it was on its last legs. Yet here we are nearly two decades later and Delta still hasn’t done anything about it. That is finally going to change with Delta’s new JFK terminal plans finally being announced.

The biggest problem with replacing the Worldport was simply lack of space and, most importantly, money. You can’t just stop using a terminal, shut it down, and then build a new one on top of it. What do you do with your flights in the meantime? So that means creative solutions are required, and those creative solutions add cost. JetBlue got lucky in New York in that it took over TWA’s vacant terminal and rebuilt it, all while continuing to use its operation next door. But Delta didn’t have that luxury, so it has now kicked off a $1.2 billion project to change it’s presence at JFK, something that’s sorely needed. Here’s the plan on my handy-dandy map:

New Delta JFK Terminal

Right now, Delta uses Terminal 2 primarily for domestic and Terminal 3 for international operations. The airline also uses a couple gates in Terminal 4 as needed. Terminal 2 wasn’t designed with style in mind as Terminal 3 was, so it’s actually relatively functional. It needs a renovation but it can still handle an operation adequately. The big change there? Those makeshift regional jet gates they put together at the end of the terminal will disappear and the end jet bridges will go back into use as regular gates.

As for Terminal 3, well, it will be demolished completely. If you’ve ever flown out of that terminal, you will jump for joy at this project. It simply isn’t capable of handling an airline operation today. The layout is goofy and it doesn’t help that several animals have made their homes in that place. I swear I’m never surprised to see rats or birds over there, though it’s been awhile since I’ve been back. Maybe the Orkin man has done some work since then.

I imagine that most of the cost in this project will be in taking down Terminal 3. It’s probably a toxic waste dump. The EPA is probably looking to see if it should become a Superfund site. Maybe now we’ll discover that Jimmy Hoffa has been buried under there this whole time, finally putting those rumors to rest.

But those disappearing gates in Terminal 3 have to show up somewhere else. And that will be in Terminal 4. Terminal 4 is already a really nice terminal, but it needs to be expanded for Delta’s purposes. Both concourses will be extended. From what I understand, the A concourse will grow so that current airlines in the B concourse can be relocated, and the B concourse will grow so Delta can handle its operation there. Then a connector will be built between the B concourse and Terminal 2 and all will be right again in New York . . . in 5 years, that is. As for the existing airlines in the B concourse? Guess they’ll have to find a new home elsewhere.

I asked for a count on the net gain in gates but I haven’t received an answer yet. I imagine it will at least replace all the existing gates and possibly add more, and it’s zero. But, there will be four more gates that are international-capable, so it does give Delta more flexibility. At the very least, it will put gates in better places so that taxiing in and out becomes much easier. Oh, and the former Terminal 3 site? That’ll be a nice place for Delta to park all those planes in order to avoid getting fined under the 3 hour rule. Hooray!

Now for the bad news. This won’t happen overnight. (Duh.) Delta will move in to the new terminal in 2013. Terminal 3 will be demolished in 2015. So, it’ll be a couple more years of pain for Delta’s New York fliers, but at least there’s now a light at the end of the tunnel.

[You can see pictures at Delta.com]

[Update 8/13 @ 810a: I received a response from Delta that the A gate extension is not in the plan right now. The map has been udpated, as have net gate counts.]

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