Only steps from the classic 1962 Eero Saarinen TWA Terminal that served international flights in the past, JetBlue staff grabbed shovels, joined by elected officials and representatives from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and broke ground on a new project that will serve the future of overseas air travel.
Underneath the curving enclosed causeway that connects the Long Island City-based airline’s Terminal 5 to the AirTrain, a backhoe sat patiently waiting to go to work. Behind it, a JetBlue Airbus A320 bearing the “I Love New York” logo on its tail idled at one of the terminal’s gates.
Under the bright Monday morning sun, the airline’s staff — joined by CEO David Barger, Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Borough President Helen Marshall, Port Authority Director of Aviation Susan Baer, and JFK Port Director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Susan Mitchell — dug their shovels into a pile of dirt where in 2015, thousands of passengers will be stepping off flights from thousands of miles away.
The new structure will essentially be a wing of Terminal 5 that will be built under the causeway. It will include three new gates dedicated to international flights that will join three other existing gates for flights from foreign countries. The wing will also have two new baggage carousels. It will add 145,000 square feet to the terminal, and the airline said it will bring up to 1,000 jobs to the area in both construction and operations.
“We’ll have a single operation instead of a split operation,” Barger said.
Incoming international flights now have to utilize customs in the adjacent Terminal 4, where most international flights arrive, forcing passengers who are connecting to a domestic flight to transfer between the terminals. Other carriers such as Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, have customs operations in their respective terminals to allow for a seamless transfer between international and domestic flights.
Last year, Terminal 6, the former National Airlines and TWA Domestic terminal where JetBlue began service in 2000, was demolished to allow for the international arrivals extension to be constructed.
The construction comes as the 14-year-old airline is opening new international routes to Colombia, the Cayman Islands and the Dominican Republic this year and operating a codeshare agreement — airline lingo for allowing passengers to transfer between airlines on one ticket — with some international carriers. One of those is Ireland’s Aer Lingus, which plans to use JetBlue’s terminal for flights to and from Dublin beginning in 2013. Hawaiian Airlines, which began direct flights to Honolulu from JFK in June, also uses Terminal 5.