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.
Great post. I have been to JFK several times before but not to the new T5 (the last JetBlue flight I took was in 2008). It seems rather swanky based on the pictures, I should check it out sometime. Interestingly, I read somewhere that there is a higher probability that people get ginger ale when flying, and some people theorize that it’s because it somehow relieves nausea (?).
Yes, ginger ale and tomato juice punch above their weight, so to speak, on airplanes. Not sure why I order it, but I always do when I fly.
Heh. Last week I flew B6 back to IAD. Did the Air Train from T7. However, as we had just gotten in from Hong Kong, all I remember is the long walk and not much of the views. Since we had four hours between flights, we did a lot of sitting. I’ll have to appreciate the aesthetic beauty on another flight.
Oh, I did appreciate my whole can of soda and the unlimited snacks. I should have brought head phones — we pushed off the gate on time, but by the time we got deiced and took off, we should have been on the ground at IAD.
B6’s new JFK T5 is a great, customer-friendly facility done on a reasonable budget. I just wish they could have incorporated the old saarinen T5 into it somehow. I was hoping it could have been retrofitted to be the ticketing and check in area and then build the new terminal to include everything else including security. Does anybody know the future disposition of the old T5, I assume it awaits the wrecking ball?
That’s the key…terminal on a REASONABLE BUDGET. JetBlue did a good job.
As for the Saarinen building, PANYNJ has been cleaning that place for ages. Apparently the asbestos is really hard to remove. The most I can imagine JetBlue doing is putting in self-serve check-in kiosks. However, this makes the terminal design really good cause it distributes the foot traffic in several different places.
As mentioned, the Saarinen building isn’t going anywhere since it’s a landmark. They haven’t decided what to do with it yet, but I would hope they do something to at least let people in again.
Nonstop between New York and California via Canada, Michigan and Wisconsin air space. Now there’s a direct fuel saving route……lol
I wondered that too and pulled up Great Circle Map. I’m guessing that flight had a departure using northern ATC routings out of NYC, and southern Ontario and lower Michigan isn’t too much further north than the direct JFK-LGB routing.
It may also be that the headwinds on that route were not as strong, so this routing may have been the most fuel efficient one.
It’s all about winds aloft, and in this case, that was the way to get there fastest. It’s not that uncommon, it seems.
I think they also have to pay a Canadian airspace usage fee (for the air traffic control) and if that factors into their routing/fuel decisions.
The Saarinen terminal is safe from the wrecking ball, both the interior and the exterior have been designated as landmarks.
JetBlue does plan to renovate the original head house, they just don’t know what it will be used for. One idea is to place the checkin area there and use the original departure/arrival tubes to connect to the new terminal.
Ben – that’s great news, thanks SO MUCH for replying!
The original plans were to make it a JFK airport related museum of some sort, with some check in kiosks there and to use the tubes as a tunnel to security IIRC.
A few things to note about the terminal, as I’ve flown through there at least 10 times.
1. It is a LONG walk from the train stop. They need moving walkways.
2. You can actually order food from these video kiosks and they’ll deliver to where you’re sitting.
3. Free wifi.
4. The central food place is pretty poorly laid out. You’re elbowing people out of the way to do just about anything.
5. Seating is better than average as airport terminal/gate areas go.
6. Much better than average access to electrical outlets and work areas.
I seem to remember moving walkways in that walk from the AirTrain, at least partially. Am I making that up?
Nope, you’re not making that up. However, on each of my 3-4 trips out of the new T5, at least one of those moving walkways has been out of service, so you’re forced to walk a fair distance anyway.
I love, love, love T5. +1 on everything Jonathan said. It’s a dream compared to the utter lack of seating and options in the WorldPort terminal.
A tiny bit off topic, but…..
Friday(JAN28) CNBC will have an hour show called “The Sky’s the Limit” which is on the airline industry and where it’s headed with more delays, lack of service, higher fares, etc.
Thought I would mention it in case anyone besides me wanted to watch it. Check your local listing for times but it’s 6pm Pacific/9pm Eastern.
the jet stream is far south so most coast to coast East-West flights are going North to avoid the stronger winds. When flying the quickest way from point A to point B is not always a straight line.
I used T5 last September & it was a breeze! A few cool things I noticed…
1. There are plenty of places to get something to eat. From the food hall to sit down dining, you can get something that goes beyond tipical fast food.
2. plenty of diversions while you wait.
3. no need to search for the restroom, there are sets between gates & are well marked.
4. When a flight is anounced you don’t here a gate agent screaming over the PA, instead an automated voice anounces at the gate with the flight number & destination once the plane is ready to board. There’s also a screen next to the gate displaying the same info for the deaf.
I also really like T5, though I do have 2 complaints.
1. The main food area is tight for people walking around with luggage.
2. There is only CNBC stores, and they don’t seem to have as wide of a selection of magazines as Hudson News does.
Otherwise there is a good selection of restaurants, shops and it’s just a pleasant place to be, as far as airport terminals go.
It would really help if T5 had a TSA Pre?