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Queens Chronicle

Revamp In The Works For Two Airport Terminals

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Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2008 12:00 am

As harsh criticism of the airline industry continues, one airline is working to improve conditions for travelers passing through Kennedy International Airport.

Delta Air Lines announced this week that the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, has authorized its plan to spend $20 million to study the reconstruction of Terminals 2 and 3, both occupied by the carrier.

This first step in the building process has been long-awaited, according to a Port Authority spokesman. “Delta’s a big player here at JFK and we believe the investment’s needed,” Marc La Vorgna said.

Built in the early 1960s, the terminals are outdated and in “very difficult shape,” Delta President and CFO Ed Bastian said, according to published reports.

Plans to redo the terminals have been repeatedly delayed since 2000, when Delta first announced a $1.6 billion redevelopment proposal. That plan fell to the bottom of the airlines list of priorities in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Delta filed for bankruptcy in 2005, which halted all plans for some time.

By the end of this year, Delta expects the completion of the study of the terminals, which together occupy about 100,000 square feet and accommodate about 48 million of Kennedy International’s nine billion travelers annually.

The carrier’s decision to launch a $3 billion project just one year after emerging from bankruptcy — and in the midst of rising jet-fuel prices and poor customer ratings — is questionable to some, but the Port Authority believes this move will improve productivity and customer relations.

“You can’t operate an airline … efficiently if you don't have modern facilities,” La Vorgna said. “So, modernizing the terminal and making it a facility that is appropriate for the gateway to the country at JFK is something that is important in not only efficiency, but also in growing a business in New York.”

The idea is good enough in the Port Authority’s opinion to have earned its $300 million commitment to develop parking facilities and infrastructure improvements, according to published reports.

This project will likely employ thousands and generate a boost for the region; between Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports, Delta employs more than 6,000 people in Queens and operates about 315 flights a day.

Delta is one of the last terminal-leasing carriers to upgrade its facility, according to the Port Authority’s executive director, Christopher Ward. “The redevelopment of these two terminals is the last component of the (airport’s) renaissance,” he told Crain’s New York.

American Airlines employed nearly 7,000 local workers last year when it completed the $1.3 billion construction of Terminal 8, and JetBlue Airways is preparing to re-open Terminal 5, which recently underwent a $750 million modernization, in September.

Crain’s reported that about 40 percent of Delta’s revenues are generated by the international service the carrier began offering in 2006. Delta will soon merge with Northwest Airlines and increase international operations.

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