Delta Opens Phase One of Its JFK Terminal Project, Two More to Go

It’s been nearly a week since Delta opened the first phase of its terminal project at JFK, and the reviews have been largely positive so far. Then again, when comparing to the old Terminal 3, the bar is set pretty low. Still, this is a huge move for the airline, but it’s just the beginning. There are two more phases that will have to take place before it’s truly a great experience for all Delta customers.

Delta Three Phases at JFK

Let’s review what happened in the first phase. Delta previously had its operations split between Terminals 2 and 3 at JFK with a little spillover into Terminal 4, a building primarily used by a variety of international airlines flying into JFK.

Now, Delta has taken over 7 gates in the western “B” concourse in Terminal 4 and built another 9. That project, which cost a seemingly insane $1.2 billion, was enough to allow Delta to shut down Terminal 3 completely. It will be demolished in 2015. But Delta still has to run a sizable operation in Terminal 2, where the gates now begin with the letter C to fit with the Terminal 4 naming scheme. (The old naming convention had gates numbered 20, 21, etc.) Here’s how it looks today.

Delta JFK Map

The original plan was to build a connector between Terminals 2 and 4 to make it easy for travelers to go back and forth. That plan was shelved and instead, Delta has beefed up its bus service. That’s right. You have to take a bus to get between terminals, and that sucks. As you can see in the picture, that’s a long route, and airplanes taxiing can slow things down even further. That should change in September when a new bus holdroom opens near gate B20, but you still have to take a bus.

Who decides if your flight gets put in Terminal 2 or 4? Well, Delta Connection flights are still primarily in that curved end of Terminal 2, so that’s a long connection. The other gates are used for some mainline flights. I was told the idea was to put more of the mainline flights that serve local passengers in Terminal 2 so that connecting travelers would be impacted as little as possible.

Naturally, while everyone is relieved that Terminal 3 is no longer being used, there is still a need to fix the other problems that remain.

Phase Two of the project will go a long way toward that end. In that phase, Delta will build another 11 gates at the end of the B concourse in Terminal 4, and these will be primarily for regional jets. They will have jet bridges, unlike some of the gates used in Terminal 2 today. And when it opens in 2015, the entire Delta Connection operation will move over to Terminal 4.

At this point, Delta will probably be able to flow most of its connecting traffic within Terminal 4, but Terminal 2 will still be needed to serve some mainline flights. And that leads us to Phase Three.

The last phase of the project is still pretty far out there. Nothing has been approved, and Delta says that there is neither a formal plan nor details to share. (I tried.)

But Delta can’t stretch the B concourse any further. (It’s already quite the long walk inside and there’s that pesky taxiway blocking an extension anyway.) So I believe Phase Three will be an extension of the A concourse to give Delta the gates it needs to consolidate everything in one place. Then Terminal 2 can be demolished, and JFK will be in serious need of renumbering since all that remains will be Terminals 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8.

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