This trip might as well be called the T5 trip, because not only did I get to experience Heathrow Terminal 5, but I also had my first brush with JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK. Both have now been open for some time, but I hadn’t experienced either. And they couldn’t be more different.
While Heathrow’s T5 is a monument to open space and design that cost £4.3 billion to build (more on this next week), JFK’s T5 is more about convenience and modesty at just $800 million. Both are great facilities in their own right, but the JetBlue facility is more up my alley.
I took the AirTrain in from the city, so I got off at the T5/T6 stop. As you may know, T6 is the former home of JetBlue, but it’s been empty since T5 opened and it will be demolished. So this really is only a T5 stop for now, but the stop requires going past the terminal and then walking back.
Once off the train, I had a great view of what remains of the old T5, the TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen. The distinctive shape still stands proud, though it’s currently unused. After getting off the train, a foot bridge winds its way past the TWA terminal and then descends into the far side of T5. It’s a long walk, which is bound to be inconvenient to many, but the views can’t be beat.
The first thing that struck me was how little space there is outside security. The ticketing area is long with high ceilings and it brackets the massive security line entrance in the middle. Security dominates much of the terminal area but it doesn’t seem intrusive. And there is plenty of room for the lines inside the terminal.
Once through security, I walked on a narrow side ramp into the heart of the terminal itself. The place really opens up nicely once you get beyond the metal detectors. The center area is in a triangular shape that has concourses going off to the left, right, and straight ahead. In the middle of the center area is a round electronic sign up high with messaging that you may have seen in press shots. Underneath it is an empty area where JetBlue has recently begun a concert series to entertain travelers. (I use the word “entertain” loosely since Taylor Swift and James Blunt aren’t exactly my style.)
Surrounding the center area is a food court on one side along with nice restaurants on the other. Shops and other restaurants ring around the edges as well. Though the area is indoors, the large restaurant seating in the open center almost gives it an outdoor cafe/walking street kind of feel with music in the background.
I was running a little late, so I didn’t have time to order food from one of the restaurants. I just had to grab something quickly. I was happy to see that there are small to-go places almost everywhere in the terminal so even when there are lines at the main restaurants, you can always find a way to grab something quickly and run to your airplane.
I picked up a turkey cranberry sandwich (which was really good, by the way) and then walked down the central concourse to get to my gate. The concourses look like what you’d expect out of a concourse but they have large skylights with a ton of natural light flooding in. The gate areas seem to have plenty of seating to make it a comfortable space.
When I reached the gate, they had just started boarding, so I got in line. The guy behind me was in his 20s and I heard him say, “I feel like I’m in the coolest terminal in the world and now I have to leave.” Something tells me he wouldn’t have been saying that had he been stuck in a legendary JFK delay. Fortunately, we went right on time.
January 21, 2011
JetBlue 209 Lv New York/JFK 115p Arr Long Beach 424p
New York/JFK (JFK): Gate 17, Runway 31L, Depart On Time
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 5, Runway 30, Arrive 20m Early
N637JB, Airbus A320-232, Big Blue Bus (Stripes tail), ~98% Full
Flight Time 5h36m
Once onboard, I took my seat and it was just like any other JetBlue flight. We only had to taxi for 12 minutes before we were airborne into the gusty but clear New York day.
The lead flight attendant got on the horn and said that he knew it was a Friday afternoon and we were all anxious to get out of New York, so he wanted to treat us with free movies. When the response was muted, he said “I said ‘free movies'” and everyone started cheering.
Our route took us way north into Canada before crossing into Michigan and Wisconsin. Then we started heading down south and the snow-covered ground melted away. I did watch a movie and then I watched a bunch of bad TV, which is actually how I want to spend a flight.
They handed out a bunch of snacks and drinks as usual, and everyone got their full can of soda. (My whole row had ginger ale. We’re awesome.)
The short taxi time on the way out meant we landed nice and early in Long Beach. We taxied for three minutes, and I was at the curb in 5 more, ready to head home.