The new Delta Air Lines Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport is set for take off.
After approval from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in August for Delta to build an improved, state-of-the-art Terminal 4, officials are wasting no time in kicking off the construction process.
Delta Air Lines, JFK International Air Terminal, the Schiphol Group — parent company of JFKIAT — and the Port Authority officially broke ground last Friday on the $1.2 billion Delta Air Lines enhancement and expansion project.
State senators Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) and Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), Assemblywoman Michelle Titus (D-Far Rockaway) and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall grabbed ceremonial shovels to initiate the building phase.
The project is part of Delta’s plan to make substantial investments in New York in order to grow and drive economic development in the region.
“This is really a phenomenal day for the Port Authority, for Delta Airlines, for the IAT and Terminal 4 and the traveling public who we are here to serve to make sure that your day, your experience here in our town is as good as it could possibly be,” said Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority.
Alain Maca, president of JFKIAT, called it a significant expansion project that will showcase Terminal 4 as a model of 21st century air travel.
The 1.5-million-square-foot terminal, which opened in May 2001 and is operated by JFKIAT, will expand by 418,000 square feet and link to Terminal 2 by a passenger connector. It is one of the largest terminals in the New York area, shuttling 9 million customers annually. After the expansion, it is anticipated that it will serve 15 million passengers.
The outdated Terminal 3, which was built in 1965, will be completely demolished, providing 16 extra spaces for aircraft parking.
Delta operates out of Terminal 2 for domestic flights and Terminal 3 for international flights, but when construction on the new project is complete it will utilize Terminal 4 for its international departures, adding nine new gates, bringing the total to 25.
Delta and JFKIAT officials estimate that the enhanced terminal will improve the customer experience for the 11 million passengers that Delta serves at JFK annually.
“The great thing about this project is that the construction is not going to affect the passengers,” said Gail Grimmett, senior vice president of Delta for New York. “We’re going to work on Terminal 4 and leave Terminal 3 open, and once Terminal 4 is ready, we’ll swap everyone over.”
The connector between Terminals 2 and 4 will be behind security, which Grimmett stated is good because if transferring between terminals, passengers won’t have to go through security, as a centralized checkpoint will be added.
Immigration and baggage-claim facilities will also be expanded, and the lobby ticketing area will be far less congested, allowing for efficient passenger check in.
The expansion will also feature dual taxiways resulting in less flight delays.
“From an operational efficiency standpoint of getting the flights out on time and getting them into the gates on time, it’s a really big deal,” Grimmett said.
With construction underway, phase one of the project, which includes relocating Delta’s Terminal 3 operations to Terminal 4, is expected to be completed in May 2013. The demolition of Terminal 3 is slated to be complete by May 2015.
The project will also have a significant economic impact for New York.
Delta’s JFK operation generates 49,000 jobs in the metropolitan region and with the expansion, 10,000 new jobs, including construction and on-airport opportunities, will be created by 2014.
Grimmett is working with officials to conduct outreach to communities in Queens.
“I think this is a great day because all I see are jobs,” Huntley said. “All the other fanfare is great but I want my people working.”
Smith and Titus echoed Huntley’s sentiments, as job creation for their constituents is a critical part of the project.
“That’s the number one issue,” Smith said. “We hope that Delta, JFK and the Port Authority remember the community at large in terms of all the jobs that it creates.”
In light of the demonstrations at Aqueduct, due to a perceived lack of area participation, Smith said he doesn’t anticipate problems with the Delta project.
“We’ll be monitoring it,” he said.
Friday’s ceremony preceded a tumultuous Sunday for Delta, when two flights were forced into emergency landings at JFK and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport due to engine failure.