At Kennedy, Progress on Travail Of Travel
While the expansion of Terminal 4 has created a labyrinth of construction walkways, it promises to make baggage screening faster and gift shops more accessible to international travelers.
Passengers traveling through Terminal 4 at Kennedy International Airport in recent months could be excused for confusing it with a maze under construction.
The $1.2 billion project is scheduled to be finished in spring 2013.
While Delta is largely driving the expansion, passengers flying on the more than three dozen carriers at the terminal also are going to benefit, officials say.
For the past year, the terminal, which serves 10 million international passengers a year, has been undergoing an expansion that has filled the space with tall wooden barriers and so many temporary walkways that it can be as disorienting as a garden labyrinth.
Work on the $1.2 billion construction project is not scheduled to be finished until spring 2013, but officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are to tour the project on Tuesday, accompanied by representatives of the Dutch management company that runs the terminal.
What they are to see is clearly a work in progress. But it is also evidence of what the future holds.
On the second floor, beams of a new mechanized baggage screening system are in place; once constructed, it will automate much of the process, making baggage screening faster and allowing passengers to check in their luggage once, rather than having to drag it to a separate area to be checked.
The terminal’s new fourth floor, above the third floor’s retail hallway, will house security. The relocation of the security area should enable passengers to move through it more quickly, and allow them more time to spend at some of the terminal’s shops, including the Palm Bar and Grille, part of an upscale steakhouse chain, and airline sky clubs.
And then there are the nine new gates, resembling legs on a centipede as they sprout from the terminal.
“What’s exciting is you’re not just looking at dirt in the ground,” said Gail Grimmett, the senior vice president at Delta Air Lines in charge of New York, which is helping to pay for the terminal expansion. “You can see the frame there. You can see a framework of an expansion. You can see progress. Now there’s a structure in place.”
Jos Nijhuis, chief executive of Schiphol Group, which is the Dutch parent company of the terminal, flew in on Monday afternoon for the tour on Tuesday with Port Authority executives. He said he hoped to form a “sister airport” alliance with Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam; both airports have similar relationships with the airport in Beijing. This will help the airports collaborate on issues like the testing of security screening equipment.
“New York is such an important gateway into the United States,” Mr. Nijhuis said. “We want to ensure that the connections are as smooth as possible.”
Since Mr. Nijhuis had met with the Port Authority’s former executive director, Christopher O. Ward, more than half a dozen times, he said, he wanted to start a working relationship with Mr. Ward’s successor, Patrick J. Foye.
While Mr. Foye will not be among the Port Authority executives at Kennedy on Tuesday, he seems open to the expansion and having an alliance with Schiphol Airport. He flew extensively through Schiphol Airport when he lived in Brussels for three years and goes through Terminal 4 each year with his family when heading abroad.
“The airports are a significant revenue generator for the Port Authority,” said Mr. Foye, who will be in Albany on Tuesday. “They’re also a tremendously important economic engine for the region. It’s going to put hundreds of people to work and make life easier for passengers going through J.F.K.”
While Delta is largely driving the expansion, passengers flying on the more than three dozen carriers at the terminal also are going to benefit, officials say. At an airport notoriously difficult for fliers trying to transfer, airport officials said that the larger terminal would make it easier for passengers to move between domestic and international flights. Fliers soon will be able to walk over to Terminal 2 without passing through security a second time. (Terminal 3 will be demolished, and the space will be dedicated for aircraft parking at a later date.)