Starting today, JetBlue Airways passengers are in for a totally new experience when they land at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The airline, Buffalo's No. 3 air carrier, with nine direct flights a day into JFK, is debuting its new Terminal 5 today, a state-of-the-art, 26-gate facility with 22 restaurants and bars, and 25 retail outlets.
"T5 is truly a People Port and offers unique amenities to create a comfortable on-the-ground experience for JetBlue customers that match the innovative and award-winning experience JetBlue is known for in the air," JetBlue CEO Dave Barger, said in a statement.
The new terminal, which is designed for the realities of post- 9/1 1 air travel, has a 20-lane security checkpoint -- the largest in the country. The checkpoint offers self-sorting lanes for families, casual travelers and experienced jet-setters to reduce queuing jams.
Soft rubber flooring and a 225-foot-long "re-vesting" bench were installed to provide a comfortable space for travelers to organize themselves after passing through security.
JetBlue, which debuted in February 2000 with a flight to Buffalo, has been using JFK's antiquated Terminal 6 for over eight years. As the airline grew, it quickly filled up the 17-gate facility, necessitating utilization of shuttle bus service to get passengers to an auxiliary wing with seven more gates and scant amenities.
The $734 million terminal, designed by the Gensler architecture firm and built in partnership with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, totals 635,000 square feet. By comparison, the 11-year-old Buffalo Niagara International Airport terminal totals 212,972 square feet and cost $187 million to build.
"The significance of the new terminal to Buffalo passengers is that they will be direct beneficiaries of this state-of-the-art facility that blends operational efficiencies with passenger comforts to provide the customer with a first class traveling experience," said Gregory Stamm, chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
In September, JetBlue flights carried 35,628 passengers, or 17 percent of all outbound traffic. The airline was the third busiest airline serving the Buffalo market, behind Southwest and US Airways, which carried 23 percent and 18 percent of fliers, respectively.
Flight 1055 from Buffalo to JFK, which was scheduled to land at 7:15 a.m., was to be one of the first flights to arrive at the new terminal.
Travelers will notice a vast improvement in food, beverage and retail offerings in "T-5." The new terminal has 55,000 square feet dedicated to food, beverage and retail, compared to 6,500 square feet of concessions at Terminal 6.
"Terminal 5 will provide JetBlue customers with extensive and unique option for dining and shopping," said George Sauer, the airline's vice president for corporate real estate.
Dining options include eight "sit-down" eateries, including Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Mexican and American cuisines. Grab-and-go offerings range from doughnuts to pizza to fresh-squeezed juices.
On the retail side, Borders, Lacoste, Ron John Surf Shop, Brighton, Ex Officio and CNBC Newsstand are among the choices. The new terminal is also home to XpressSpa, which offers a ranging of in-airport facial and body treatments.
OTG Management, the terminal's food and retail operator, is out to set a "higher standard" for airport concessions, according to the firm's chief executive Rick Blatstein.
"We want to bring humanity and warmth to airport dining and help relax the travel experience overall," Blatstein said in a statement.