Delta’s formula for winning over New York travelers is simple: floor-to-ceiling windows, abundant power outlets and a view unlike any other terminal.
The airline opened a sprawling $1.4 billion terminal at Kennedy Airport Friday, a facility more suitable to the high-paying passengers it is trying to attract. The 346,000-square-foot concourse offers upscale food and shopping options, increased seating and sweeping views of the airport.
It replaces a terminal built by Pan Am in 1960 that was once cutting-edge but had deteriorated, becoming an embarrassing way to welcome millions of visitors to the United States.
Kennedy Airport is still the primary gateway to the U.S. It welcomed 13.1 million inbound international passengers last year, more than any other American airport. And Delta carries about 2.1 million of them, more than any other airline.
The facility doesn’t compare to the over-the-top cathedrals to air travel that some cities in Asia and the Middle East have built in the last decade. But travelers will appreciate both the big and small touches, such as 75 percent of seats at the gates having access to electric outlets.
The most unique part is a 2,000-square-foot rooftop deck that offers a close-up view of the runways and airplanes. But it is part of a new Delta Sky Club, accessible only to members or passengers flying in transcontinental or international business class.
Like at any modern airport, fliers should be prepared for a long walk — it can take up to 15 minutes to reach the furthest gate.
“I did need a plane ride to get from the entrance to here today,” joked U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.).
The expansion added nine new gates at the terminal. Construction is expected to soon begin on 11 additional gates for Delta’s smaller regional jets. The airline hopes by 2015 to move all of its operations to Terminal 4. Until then, Delta will use a fleet of 10 buses to shuttle passengers between Terminal 4 and its other operation in Terminal 2.
New York is one of the few big cities in the U.S. not dominated by one airline. Carriers fight viciously to win the business of bankers, lawyers and consultants based in the city whose companies pay top dollar for last-minute flights.
“Not only is New York the largest single U.S. air travel market, but it is also the largest premium business airline market in the country,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Hudson Crossing. “Airlines that serve New York must bring their ‘A game’ to everything they do, including the airport experience.”