When American finished building its opulent Terminal 8 complex at New York’s JFK Airport in 2007, there were already plans to expand. What the airline didn’t predict back then is that the expansion would hardly be needed. American has done nothing but shrink at JFK, and that has created opportunity for smaller partners to move in. There has long been one partner, however, that makes the most sense for co-location, but until now that hasn’t been possible. Fortunately, there is now a plan in place to move British Airways from Terminal 7 to Terminal 8.
British Airways and American effectively offer a shuttle service between JFK and London’s Heathrow Airport. Just look at today’s schedule.
- 805a – 750p (BA)
- 1020a – 1010p (AA)
- 630p – 625a (BA)
- 640p – 650a (AA)
- 655p – 650a (BA)
- 725p – 720a (BA)
- 815p – 810a (BA)
- 825p – 835a (AA)
- 855p – 845a (BA)
- 945p – 935a (BA)
- 1020p – 1030a (AA)
- 1115p – 1105a (BA)
That is a truly dense schedule and one that appeals to the business traveler who just wants to get on the next available flight. The problem today is that American is in Terminal 8 while BA is in Terminal 7 and they aren’t connected behind security. That also makes connections from the remaining domestic American flights to BA flights more difficult.
Even though Terminal 8 was built to be expanded, moving BA wasn’t an easy fix. See, Terminal 7 was actually built for BA’s predecessor BOAC, and BA operates the terminal today. Further, with this kind of schedule density, you need a lot of open gates at the same time to handle the entire operation.
Despite these hurdles, BA has now reached a deal to move into Terminal 8 with American when the Terminal 7 lease expires in 2022. The airlines have to spend $344 million to bring the terminal up to speed. This includes “the addition of five widebody gates and four adjacent widebody hard stands, enhanced baggage systems, new lounges, premium check-in space and upgraded concessions and retail options.”
What isn’t clear to me is if this actually means that 5 new gates will be added or if existing gate space will be re-allocated to mean that there will now be 5 more gates that are widebody-capable. Regardless, only having to spend $344 million to bring an operation as big as BA’s into a terminal is a real reflection on just what American has done at JFK… shrink.
Just last weekend, American canceled its two daily flights to Orlando. That means the airline that used to be a major player in the Caribbean from New York has nothing to Florida outside of the Miami hub. If you look at the Caribbean/Latin operation, I believe this is all that’s left outside the 6 daily Miami flights:
- 1x 737-800 to Antigua (lower frequency outside summer)
- 1x 777-200 to Buenos Aires/Ezeiza
- 1x 737-800 to Cancun
- 1x 737-800 to Punta Cana (summer only)
- 1x 777-300ER to Sao Paolo/Guarulhos
- 1x weekly 737-800 to St Kitts
- 1x weekly 737-800 to St Maarten (winter only)
- 1x weekly 757-200 to St Thomas
If you want to be generous, you can lump the daily 737-800 to Bermuda in there, but it’s still a skeleton of what it used to be.
Then there’s Europe. You’ll be amazed to know that this is all American has left now:
- 1x 777-200 to Barcelona
- 2x 777-200 and 2x 777-300ER to London/Heathrow
- 1x 777-200 to Madrid
- 1x 777-200 to Milan/Malpensa
- 1x 777-200 to Paris/de Gaulle
- 1x 777-200 Rome/Fiumicino (summer only)
While we’re at it, let’s look at the domestic network. Of course, you have the hub operations.
- 6x 737-800 to Charlotte
- 1x 737-800 to Chicago/O’Hare
- 4x 737-800 to Dallas/Fort Worth
- 12x A321T to Los Angeles
- 6x 757/737-800/767-300 to Miami
- 5x 737-800 to Phoenix
- 1x 738, 1x E-175, 2x CRJ to Washington/National
Outside the hubs, well, there’s almost nothing left. Here’s the domestic non-hub mainline operation:
- 2x 737-800 to Austin
- 2x A321T, 1x 737-800 to Boston
- 2-3x 737-800 to Las Vegas
- 1x 737-800 to San Antonio
- 3x 737-800 to San Diego
- 5x A321T to San Francisco
- 3x 737-800 to Seattle
- 5x weekly 757-200 to Vail/Eagle (winter only)
That leaves us with the small regional operation:
- 2x ERJ to Nashville
- 2x ERJ/CRJ to Boston
- 2x ERJ to Baltimore
- 1x ERJ to Columbus
- 2x ERJ to Cleveland
- 1x ERJ to Cincinnati
- 1x ERJ to Indianapolis
- 2x ERJ to Norfolk
- 1x ERJ to Philadelphia
- 1x ERJ to Pittsburgh
- 4x ERJ to Raleigh/Durham
- 2x ERJ to Montreal
- 2x ERJ to Toronto
If you add it all up, that makes for around 100 flights a day in total with a quarter of them being on regionals. With 29 gates in the terminal, there should be all kinds of room for other airlines.
Over time, smaller partners have crept in. You have Cathay Pacific with its 3 daily flights, LATAM with 3 or 4 a day, and Finnair, Qantas ,and Royal Jordanian each with one flight. But there still should be room for a BA-sized operation.
The bottleneck, of course, is in the late afternoon/evening. The terminal has to be built to handle things at the peak even though it’ll likely be a ghost town the rest of the time. Still, it appears American has shrunk enough to the point where it will take only a fairly marginal investment to get enough gates to handle peak BA.
This is good for passengers on BA and American, but it’s also good for everyone else at the airport. With BA’s departure, Terminal 7 can be razed, and something new can be built on that spot to better integrate with JetBlue’s existing terminal.
Now I just find myself wondering… how much further can American shrink? There might be room for even more partners in the future the way things are going.