Delta Finally Reveals JFK Terminal Plans

Delta, JFK - New York/JFK

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]

[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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44 comments on “Delta Finally Reveals JFK Terminal Plans

  1. Hi, Cranky. Perhaps you can clear this up. The expansion of Concourse A and the attenuated regional jet extension of Concourse B were not part of the plan revealed at this PANYNJ meeting:

    The images showing those additions have been taken down from, making me think they are more long-term projects, with only the principal extension of Concourse B (and expanded check-in and security) to be done by 2013.

    1. You’re right. I finally heard back from Delta this morning and confirmed that the A extension is not part of the plan. That’s why they pulled down the rendering. I’ve updated the map and the post.

      Also, Delta confirmed there will be no additional gates once the project is done, but there will be four additional gates that can handle international aircraft.

  2. I second Tom’s comment. It looks like the expansion of A is a bit pie-in-the-sky, a second phase that isn’t included in the 1.2 billion now. Possibly the same is true of the regional jet gates. Look at the videos from the board meetings of the port authority. You can also count gates on the graphics in those videos.

  3. Terminal 2 wasn’t designed with style in mind as Terminal 3 was, so it’s actually relatively functional.

    As an Architect you’re killing me here. Anything can be designed to be both aesthetic and very functional. Too many airports in this country are all function and no style. Train stations of past generations were architectural masterpeices. Airports of our modern time should be the same.

    Although the old Worldport isn’t as high on my list as TWA’s old Saarinen designed terminal, I don’t think it should be razed. It’s a part of history. I wish Delta could be more forward thinking and do something similar to Jetblue by saving the original structure and rebuilding the “expansion” part of the worldport.

    1. Im glad you say that because i just wrote an email to the president of Delt, Richard Anderson asking him to consider doing what jeblue did and reuse the old worldprt as a lounge and check in to hangout. Before your flight, and i told him just to remove the fan addition to the terminal.

  4. A, if as an architect it pains you to see functional but style-less buildings, then figure out a way to design with both style and function without blowing the budget.

  5. I too am sad to see T3 go. – Don’t get me wrong, I hate going through T3 as it is now (and have to do it on my frequent trips to TXL), but the original structure (without the low-ceiling addition from 1972) is an architectural and aviation landmark that should not go. It should be renovated and fixed and used as part of the T4-T2 connector.

    1. You’re singing my song! I flew into JFK for the first time on an arrival from TLV last November, and while the 70s annex is atrocious, the cantilevered flying saucer is aviation history–though it could use some TLC. I always thought Delta made a mistake (for many reasons) building the “horseshoe” for Delta Connection at T2 and that with some work, T3 sans the annex could make a decent place to park RJs. If nothing else, that T2-T4 walk will be a killer.

      1. I’ve never been through T3, but the old historic terminal should stay in some way shape or form.

        Although, what does it look like inside? I’ven’t been able to find any pictures of it…

  6. There are pictures out there that confirm what others have said – Concourse A will remain the same. However, one wonders why it’s not being expanded. There certainly is enough room for it.

    1. I haven’t heard about the parking garage, but yes, it appears the B gates go that far out (at least on the original rendering which is now gone). The regional jet gates the end of Terminal 2 will go to the end of concourse B.

      1. Sorry, I just went back and reread what I saw and T3 will be used for aircraft parking. I knew someone would be parking there…

        Expansion Project Highlights

        Construction is scheduled to begin in September 2010, with anticipated completion of phase one and relocation of Delta’s Terminal 3 operations to Terminal 4 in May 2013. Delta’s JFK terminal project includes the expansion of Concourse B at Terminal 4, with nine new international gates; the construction of a passenger connector between Terminal 2 and Terminal 4; expanded areas for baggage claim, Customs and Border Protection; and the demolition of Terminal 3 in May 2015. The Terminal 3 site will then be used for aircraft parking.

    1. Right now, T2 has 7 narrowbody gates and 13 CRJ gates. T3 has 16 gates. They also use 3 gates right now in T4. So it’s just shy of 40.

      In the future, T2 will have 10 gates (when the RJ gates go away). T4 will have 16 big jet gates. There will also be 13 or 14 CRJ gates.

  7. Separately it is being reported that American wants to expand terminal 8 and move its Oneworld partners in there. The Lan airlines currently are at terminal 4. That would free up a bit of room.

    1. That presupposes that the merged LAN/TAM is part of oneWorld rather than Star. Since LAN seems to be the driver behind the merger, the odds favor oneWorld, but there is no guarantee at all at this point

  8. I agree that the (third)WordPort is about as functional as a space heater on a Texas afternoon in August….but I am with Christian and others on here that will hate to see the Flying Saucer go away. I think airports with the sterile ambiance of your local mall add to the stress of the average traveler.

    Plus..I am sure those folks connecting to DLC flight 5992 to CVG are gonna love walking down to gate B-372(a). Anyone notice that the B super-extension is going to be about 7 feet from the KD taxiway??

  9. Thanks for the map, it’s very helpful in deciphering all the statements about what’s gonna happen. You write that PA built the Worldport in 1960. Nope, they opened the umbrella terminal in ’60 (I worked in PA PR in the mid-’60s and then the late ’70s and I never heard anyone call it the flying saucer). As some readers have noted, it bids fair to top TWA’s flying brassiere for architectural novelty. More to the point of function, well before jetways it allowed 707s and DC-8s to nose in under cover where passengers could walk straight on board, no stairs. One of Moscow’s airports has a terminal that copies the design. It was spacious, open and elegant and served PA well in that era of only 12-15 flites a day and no pax screening requirements. Today it’s a mere vestige of its former self, DL having been forced to throw up walls and other barriers that make it impossible to appreciate how spacious it once was. It would be nice if it could be restored to its original concept and somehow incorporated into the new DL terminal areas, but where will the $$$ come from. The US airline industry doesn’t care about history except in certain petite and isolated pockets.

    As for the horrible low-ceilinged 1972 addition in the back, that was when PA coined the Worldport name and applied it to both parts of its facility. Enuf has been said about its deficiencies and the misery it has caused milllions of passengers over the years. Good riddance.

    1. Thanks for the background on the use of the Worldport name. The original concept was a good one, but as mentioned, it sadly just doesn’t function the way things are today. Not sure how they could save the original building and make it functional other than keeping it as a connecting point for people walking from T2 to T4. But that would cost a lot more than just knocking it down, I assume.

      1. Restore it to it’s original look and make it

        – a connector between T2 and T3
        – an aviation museum dedicated to commercial aviation
        – a capsule hotel (okay, not sure about that one)

  10. I flew out of the Pan Am WorldPort for 25 years, first as a Flight Engineer, then Co-Pilot, finally Captain. I doubt if you can imagine how bad all Pan Am employees felt when this great airline was allowed to go under. Now one of the last images of this airlines existence is to be torn down. How sad. Thank goodness one can still go to Miami and see where this great airline originated.

  11. Cranky, I guess you can erase this comment if you want, but this was a horrible post. You got it wrong about the expansion, then you got it wrong about the WorldPort. You could have done a simple internet search to get it right both times. I think you may have too much going on, and you may want to either hire an editor (to correct the typos on your BNET posts) or cut back on the amount of articles you write.

    1. Jim, what did he get wrong? Unless you can say what he got wrong, you might as well stop.

      Also, until you’ve walked in someone’s shoes for a while, I recommend not throwing mud.

      Yeah, Cranky has typos sometimes, and I for one wouldn’t mind a slightly lighter posting schedule, but all in all Cranky Flier is a fun and entertaining fun blog.

    2. Are you kidding me, Jim?

      If you want to throw blame around (and I’m not sure why), then you’ll have to look at Delta. I was going off the renderings which they posted and subsequently pulled down when they realized they weren’t the right ones.

      And as for the Worldport, the only thing I got wrong was the year they started calling it the Worldport. It was built in 1960, as I stated. Huge, dramatic error, right? Sheesh.

      As for BNET, every post goes through an editor, so it’s not my fault it they aren’t catching typos over there.

      Really, if you don’t like what you read here, you’re welcome to stop reading.

    1. Yeah, strange, right? The info I got from them today says that the RJ gates in T2 will be pulled down in 2015, when T3 is demolished. Then the gates will go to T4. But then later today I got a rendering that doesn’t show the RJ gates, so I asked for confirmation once again and haven’t heard back. I’ll keep you posted.

      1. Regarding the RJ gates, as I studied the map I began to wonder why the architecturally unique umbrella portion of T3 couldn’t be “repurposed” for DL’s RJ operation, altho at probably greater expense than what’s projected now. For that type of operation–smaller pax numbers, smaller aircraft–the umbrella space could be gutted, refurbished and returned to its original spacious, open design except that there would be more gates and instead of jetways, stairs would lead down to the ground for access to the low-profile RJs. (I imagine that any regional jet terminal will require stairs, a ramp or escalators to bring pax down to ground level since a standard jetway is impractical for RJ loading.) The RJs could park under the umbrella’s ample cover, providing some protection from the weather. So in the grand scheme of things, the umbrella part of T3 would remain between T2 and T4, making for shorter walking distances for both domestic and int’l pax connecting to RJ flites. Also easier access for NY-originating RJ pax since they wouldn’t have to walk thru the long concourses of T4. This “new” T3 might also provide a more convenient connector between T2 and T4. Best of all, the historic umbrella terminal would be saved, as would the profitable restaurant and Clipper Club lounge spaces that once were located there (I haven’t been inside lately to see if they still are).

        1. I agree with the wish that the saucer and possibly its roadway could be saved and used as either an alternate drop-off and entry point for Delta or (preferably) a little hub of gates for the RJs. I guess the difference would be whether the connectors terminate pre-or post-security which I can’t tell from the drawing.

  12. I don’t get it – American gets a brand spanking new terminal – jetBlue jets a brand spanking new terminal – and for $1.2 billion Delta gets to demolish an old terminal and extend a concourse and people are happy about it? The unless they re-do the front end of Terminal 4 for modern check in and security – it still will be the same old thing – so why is Delta happy about this? It can’t compete with what American and JetBlue did!!

    1. It’s really a problem of space. There is no room in the central terminal area for Delta to build a brand new terminal. American and JetBlue got lucky in that respect. The only site open for development would be JetBlue’s old Terminal 6, but that’s a small site that couldn’t handle Delta’s operation.

  13. Anyone here want to join in an effort to save the building—-for another use obviously—-we have begun and could use a ton of help!!!!! Thanks,

  14. Why does this article speak so negatively about the worldport it is a 51 year old peice of history and an Icon. The author really seems to see this as a burdon is giving up such a great piece and a whole terminal worth a connector between t2 and t4 with a few RJ gates? and isnt delta intending to move some of its domestic and regional opps to their new terminals in LGA inherited from Usair allong with some 130 slots ?

  15. looking at the map and amount of gates etc… I think they should demolish T2 which is horrible also, and refurbish T3, and use T2 space for parking. It will make it better for pax not having to walk all the way from ridiculous T2 to T4…T3 is an icon of aviation history and I think architects can do a better job on planning the whole thing…use T2 while reburbishing T3 when T4 is complete, then demolish that tiny horrible T2….just my thought!!

  16. Delta should build a new terminal on the site of the Worldport when it is demolished for domestic use. I highly doubt that Terminal 2 can handle all of Delta’s domestic operations with only 10 gates and such small space.

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