When I started business school in 2002, there was plenty of construction going on around San Jose Airport. Now, 8 years later, nothing has changed. There’s been virtually nonstop construction since then, but a huge milestone has been reached now that the passenger terminals are complete. That means, a little nostalgia is in order.
For a long time, San Jose has had Terminal A and Terminal C. There was a huge spot in the middle just waiting for a Terminal B, but it wouldn’t be built for years. Terminal A was the home of the shrinking American hub (and Reno Air before that) and growing Southwest operation. The cats and dogs were in the old Terminal C, which still boarded via air stairs.
Now that Terminal B has been finished, C is toast. Terminal A, which was woefully underbuilt for its purpose (and I mean, it was just rough), is now connected to Terminal B behind security and there’s now a cohesive airport. But not everyone is celebrating.
Personally, I love the old terminals, and C was old at about 45 years of age. Above, you can see a great shot of it from the ramp side, completely dwarfed by the massive new parking garage that was just a surface lot when I used to fly in and out. Like most old terminals, Terminal C was an absolute mess. Most of the decent food was outside security, and the security checkpoints were awkward; shoehorned into a space that was obviously never designed to handle it. But that’s part of the fun of these old buildings. They have some serious character.
Now, San Jose has a huge, bright, and airy new terminal that cost a ton of money. In fact, the cost per enplanement is expected to approach $16 by next year. That’s way too high for an airport like this, and some airlines have pulled back service knowing where these costs were going.
In fact, San Jose knows it needs to get costs down, but the aviation director doesn’t really provide any compelling ways for that to happen. It’s not easy when you have a huge amount of debt that you have to pay off. Unlike Terminal A back in the day, this has been overbuilt now. And the airport may suffer for awhile until it’s able to really pay down its debts, just like SFO did for a few years after building its massive international terminal.
But for now, let’s not worry about that and just say goodbye to Terminal C and the small piece of history that dies with it.
Happy 4th of July to all the Americans reading here. (Thanks for screwing that one up, King George III!) I’ll be back here again on Tuesday.