Will JetBlue Be Welcoming Its International Partners Under Its Roof at JFK?

Delta, JetBlue, JFK - New York/JFK

It’s earnings season, and that means it’s time for a slew of long analyst calls to talk about the events of the last quarter. I don’t listen to them myself, because I’d never get any work done if I did. Instead, I just read PlaneBusiness to get the details on what happened. This quarter, a couple of things on JetBlue’s call jumped out at me, and it got me thinking. It looks like JetBlue might have the tools to bring not only its own flights, but also those of partners under its own roof. That would be huge. Take a look at this quote from the earnings call:

And then if you go over to JFK, just a little update. Of course, terminal five, we’re close to celebrating four years of really just optimum performance through that facility. We’re very close with the Port Authority of extending terminal five. We call it T5 International internally. It’s on the footprint of the former terminal six. Terminal six is — was not landmarked. It was obviously, as you know, originally there to support National Airlines decades ago. It is now a tarmac, and we are very hopeful that we will be breaking ground on an international arrival facility similar to what you see happening over at terminal four. There’s a lot of growth happening at Kennedy. We believe that having all of our operation under one roof — and again we will have Hawaiian Airlines in here very shortly — is really exciting.

This might not be breaking news, but it’s the first time I’ve really thought about this. An international facility at Terminal 5 would do wonders, wouldn’t it? Of course, it would allow JetBlue’s own international arrivals to land at Terminal 5 instead of running a split operation today, but it can do much more than that.

JetBlue has already announced that its partner Hawaiian will begin flying out of T5 when it comes to JFK. Hawaiian, however, is the only partner that can do that right now. American is certainly too large and it has its own new facility there anyway. Cape Air, the only other domestic partner, doesn’t fly to JFK. All the other partners are international, though I do wonder if Aer Lingus could move today because of its pre-clearance. I’m not sure. But, if JetBlue builds a new international wing on the footprint of the old Terminal 6, that opens a whole new opportunity, and it comes at a good time. Here’s JetBlue’s corner of JFK:

JetBlue's Corner of JFK

Remember that Delta is actively working to take over a huge chunk of Terminal 4 as a replacement for Terminal 3. With that, all existing airlines in Terminal 4 will be pushed to the eastern concourse, I believe. And you know which airlines are included there?

Aer Lingus, El Al, Emirates, LOT, Singapore, South African, TAM, and Virgin Atlantic are all both partners with JetBlue and tenants in Terminal 4. Given the opportunity to make connections simple and move to a brand new facility, you would think that many of these would jump at the chance. Sure that might not include airlines like Virgin Atlantic, which have invested a significant amount of money in facilities, but others don’t quite have those deep ties.

That would create a monster of an opportunity. Keeping all those flights in the same terminal reduces minimum connecting times and allows airlines to schedule tighter connections. For an airline like El Al, it could help make connections more competitive by reducing total transit time. The shorter the travel time, the higher those flights show up in reservation system displays. That could be a big deal for some of these airlines, which might be at a disadvantage versus other airlines that can connect within the US on their own flights.

I haven’t seen a ton of information on this Terminal 5 expansion yet, but it seems like a great plan for both JetBlue and its partners.

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27 comments on “Will JetBlue Be Welcoming Its International Partners Under Its Roof at JFK?

  1. Can the terminal 5 expansion handle large jets? If not, that would instantly rule it out for many airlines. They probably won’t be able to handle the A380 (no Emirates or Singapore), but if they can’t handle the B747/B777/A340 that rules out most other carriers as well. JFK is so crowded that having adequate space around gates as well as space and facilities inside the terminals is big problem, and it would reduce overall capacity of the new terminal (look how close all the planes are spaced in the current T5)

    1. It’s possible that an extention of T5 could be designed to handle larger aircraft like the AirBus 380.

      Now if Delta moves from T3 to an enlarged T4 &JetBlue extends T5 on to the footprint of the former T6, shouldn’t the terminals get renumbered as they were some years ago?

      Delta also could extend T2 as part of a remoddle when T3 closes. Last I read T3 was slated to become aircraft parking, & a walkway was going to be constructed between terminals 2 & 4 along with 9 aditional gates. I forgot how much Delta was paying the Port Authority for this project, but it was substantial.

    2. Fred – Like I said, I don’t know anything about the plans here, but there’s no reason it couldn’t be designed to handle jets the size of the A380.

      Sean – Yes, T3 is gone and there will be a walkway. I tried to draw that on the map, sort of.

      1. But if JetBlue wants to design the terminal with gates that can handle the A380 or even B777 sized aircraft, it is a fairly inefficient use of space unless they are frequently used for such aircraft. Space at JFK is at a premium, and JetBlue can make the most of it for themselves if they just put in ‘normal-sized’ gates that can handle the A320s that they fly.
        They definately could plan to include larger gate areas, but I think it would be more cost-effective to just build a tunnel or walkway post-security between T4 and T5 if they can.

        1. Fred – I’m not an expert in this, but I recall a few examples where a gate is designed to park an A380 and take up that gate’s space and its neighbor’s space as well, and they’d just have to not use its neighboring gate while its in use.

          1. Yes. You can use a Code F stand as two Code C stands. See the new Delhi T3 on Google Maps.

            Also I wish they had just constructed a single terminal. I mean there’s a whole highway interchange in the middle of JFK! Anyway the more airlines under one roof, the increased connection opportunities = more competition.

    3. On the question of whether T5/T6 would be able to handle wide-bodied aircraft the discussion ignored the fact that the HA flights from JFK to HNL will be non-stop from T5 using new wide-bodied aircraft. As far as I can tell from the HA website they will be using Airbus A330-200. Of course, the A-380 is larger ….

  2. It’s better then the space just sitting there empty. Being JFK is a big international gateway, more custom areas would only be a good thing if anyone could use them if it means not keeping passengers hostage on planes during bad weather if T6 had open gates and T4 was full.

    1. Not necessarily — as has been discussed here before (primarily by me), more CBP space does not mean more CBP personnel. In fact, it’s been made pretty clear that CBP personnel will not grow in the forseeable future. So, while there may be more space to hold longer lines (which I suppose is better than being stuck on a plane), it’s not going to do anything to shorten the lines.

  3. No problem for EI’s pre-cleared flights to go into a ‘domestic’ terminal. Same thing happens in LAS where WS’s pre-cleared flights all go into the domestic only T1

    1. Scott – I wasn’t sure if Canada was a different animal than Ireland for some reason. Looking at US Airways, I see that the Dublin flight to Philly lands in the B terminal, which is for domestic. So that does appear to be the case. Maybe for Aer Lingus it’s just a matter of there not being enough gates at T5 today to handle the operation.

  4. For all of the people who want jetBlue to merge with American, where would the combined airline’s terminal be? Airport expansions are expensive. I readily admit I could be wrong, but combining American and jetBlue at JFK seems like a logistical nightmare.

    1. JetBlue & American both have new terminals, but don’t forget about AirTrain. I seriously dout these airlines will merge since there networks overlap in the northeast & Florida. What I can see happening is American & USAirways tieing the not & JetBlue benefiting with route or frequency divestitures from the relaunched american.

    2. I don’t think AA wants to outright merge with JetBlue, they just want to do domestic code-sharing. If they can win that scope concession from their pilots then merger would be several years down the road IMO.

  5. Interesting.. Makes me wonder if JetBlue is also looking at getting into the ground handling business.. at least in JFK..

    Although looking at the “satellite image”, it seems the biggest obstacle to this is the walkway from the Airtrain station to Terminal 5.. But I’m sure that can be worked around.

    1. Nick – The walkway from the station is pretty high up, actually. When you get to T5, you have to go downstairs. So I think that they could just build the terminal underneath it without any trouble.

      1. AFAIK, T5 was built with the intention of eventually connecting to T6/T5i. There is space at the end of Gate 24/25/26 area where a corridor could extend into the new terminal.

        The Airtrain walkway is raised, and runs right in between the old T6 footprint at T5

  6. “For an airline like El Al, it could help make connections more competitive” — They can start by pricing itiniraries like LGB–JFK–TLV at no more than two separate tickets on the same flights…

  7. none of this makes any difference as long as the ludicrously run TSA checkpoints at T5 continue to destroy the entire jetblue flying experience. i has taken me 45 minutes to clear security at T5 on a monday morning. it’s wonderful to see all 17 of those shiny new checkpoints lined up in T5 with only 5 or 6 actually operating and staffed by the rudest, laziest, and most insolent blueshirts i have ever come across.

    i have abandoned jetblue specifically because of the horrid TSA checkpoint in T5. i took my 2 or 3 flights a week to places where actually gettinginto the terminal did not destroy my entier day.

    1. i have to second that.
      i can see why CF is excited but quite frankly, 5-10 minutes difference in transit due to closer terminal is totally irrelevant if there is no pre-clearance..
      transiting without pre-clearance is such a nightmare.

      you end up with very unpredictable wait at passport control, get screened again, re-check your luggage etc. even worse for foreigners at passport-control.

      1. It makes a huge difference the other way. If you’re going domestic to international, then it’s a FAR easier connection when you don’t have to leave security.

    2. There is potential for a new checkpoint and ticket counter area in T6, while leaving existing T5 area for Jetblue. In essence, adding a post-security connection between 2 separate terminals, that happen to house Jetblue (T5) and their partners and international flights (t6/5i).

      As for TSA, they are terrible at T5. Partly because they do not open enough lanes, and partly because Jetblue caters to families and leisure travelers who are slower through the checkpoint than legacies. T5 is very time-of-day dependent. 20 min arrival difference can separate a 40 minute wait from a 4 minute wait. I do know that Jetblue is working hard to improve it, and they know it is an issue with T5.

      Buy the upgraded Even More Speed lane? Hopefully Jetblue will add Pre-Check soon, however unlikely it seems (since most customers are leisure, they likely don’t qualify, and wouldn’t expect PreCheck to be a high-ROI investment so soon after changing reservation systems)

  8. Cranky

    How much of T6 was demolished? Was the head-end building demolished or just the Sundome? And any news on whether Oneworld/BA will move from T7 to an expanded T8?

    1. Zack – I believe it’s all gone. And I don’t imagine BA would move from T7 since it has a stake in the building. Maybe some day.

    2. they had stripped the jetbridges from all of the gates (some were moved to T5), and I was last there when they started the demolition. It appeared the entire building is to be demolished to make room for an entirely new building

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