Consolidation (and questions) at JFK for Alaska Airlines, Virgin America

UPDATE: Alaska Airlines eventually issued a revised release correcting some of the confusion. Details about the TSA PreCheck and lounge remain the same.

Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are set to consolidate operations at JFK Airport’s Terminal 7. The move will complete by October 2017 and allow for “a better airport experience while laying the groundwork for future growth at JFK,” according to the company. Alaska Airlines currently operates from Terminal 8 while Virgin America is in Terminal 4. The carrier will also open a lounge in T7, likely in the space formerly used as a United Club, though that work will take a bit longer with opening set for early 2018.

The announcement also includes some interesting claims about the volume of connecting traffic and the value on that front.

Together, Alaska and Virgin America operate 14 flights a day to JFK from key West Coast international gateways including Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco. Alaska and Virgin America fly nonstop from 28 destinations to New York City area airports, including Newark, where the two airlines are co-located in Terminal A.

I’m trying very, very hard to come up with what the 28 destinations are for nonstop service and they just are not there. I’m guessing it is supposed to be 28 daily frequencies with flights to Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Springs & Dallas and that something got missed in the edits, but otherwise I cannot figure it out.

Similarly, the announcement adds “The airlines will join Alaska Global Partners British Airways, Qantas and Icelandair in Terminal 7, providing guests convenient access to a combined 17 daily flights to top global destinations across Europe and Australia.” Putting aside the circuitous routing of flying from the west coast to JFK to connect to a Qantas flight back to Los Angeles and then on to Australia, there aren’t 16 other daily departures from T7 on Alaska Airlines partners. BA has as many as eight daily flights to London and Icelandair peaks at three to Reykjavik in the summer. Cathay Pacific is no longer in T8 and even if it were flying from California to JFK to get to Hong Kong is not a particularly typical choice.

Also of minor concern with the move is what the impact will be for passengers as they work through the TSA checkpoint. Currently no airlines at JFK’s T7 participate in the TSA PreCheck program so no facilities for such exist. With 14 daily departures Alaska Airlines’ volume of traffic should be sufficient to justify adding that service but carving out space could be a challenge in the small checkpoint area.

Consolidated operations and a dedicated lounge will be nice improvements for Alaska Airlines’ passengers at JFK. Hopefully the T7 renovations (terminal owner British Airways is investing $65mm in improvements) come along quickly enough to make it not such a dreary experience inside.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Maybe they will get a TSA PreCheck lite, which should not require more space than zero Pre check.

    1. Yeah, but also not as fast nor as easy as PreCheck. So not a great PaxEx adjustment for those pax.

      1. Every trip I take starts with Precheck Lite. Agree that it’s not as good as full precheck, but as I nowadays rarely travel with a laptop, it often basically just means taking the ziplock bag out of the carry-on. I can live with that.

        1. I think you’d be in the minority for business travelers that way. Also, I haven’t taken my liquids out at a US checkpoint – Pre or not – in years.

    1. I don’t think that T4 or T8 could provide the combined gate space desired. And no room for a lounge. This way they get dedicated gates and the old UClub space.

  2. I think this is a terrible move – AA offers far more connectivity in T8 than AS can ever get from FI/BA (QF makes zero sense) in T7.

    Really JFK (and AA) needs to get moving with finishing out T8 and have all OW carriers under one roof. Probably will have to force IAG to accept this, but really that is the best path forward for the entire NYC market.

    1. BA is investing $65mm in a T7 makeover. I wouldn’t bet on that move coming any time soon.

      1. Yes – and I don’t really understand this. A dedicated BA wing T8 extension (north side of main terminal) would be a true game changer for BA from a pax ex perspective. No renovation will ever make T7 as nice as T8.

        Granted, this would require at least 5-7 years and considerable capital outlay (that can be shared between multiple airlines and local governments) if they were to commit to something like that.

        Tight crowded claustrophobic terminal that handles as many as 5-6 widebodies at the same time is not going to help them have a world class facility in their most important long haul market IMHO.

  3. I’d love to see a SLC – JFK route, plus that would get AS cutting more at DL on that route.

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