JetBlue wants another terminal (or two!) at JFK

Get ready for the return of Terminal 6 at New York City’s JFK airport. The old building was demolished after JetBlue opened its flagship T5 hub in 2008 but the carrier retained the rights for future development. Now, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pushing for a redevelopment of JFK and restructuring of the terminals – a $10bn project if all the work is completed – JetBlue is ready to move forward. It issued a Request for Qualifications last week, asking developers to prove their abilities to design and construct the new building.

A Google Maps view of the T5/6/7 complex. JetBlue may soon be responsible for all three terminals at JFK Airport.
A Google Maps view of the T5/6/7 complex. JetBlue may soon be responsible for all three terminals at JFK Airport.

The new T6 will add additional gate space that JFK sorely needs. At peak times the carrier already uses hard stands (i.e. bus gates) for some international arrivals because it lacks sufficient gates at the T5i international arrivals extension that opened in 2014. JetBlue would like to expand its own operations, within the limits of the landing slots portfolio it currently holds, but the T6 development has a broader goal.

Welcome to the new JFK T5

At multiple points in the release the company points out the need to increase international gate space, both for itself and for partner airlines. Adding a few gates specifically designed for wide-body aircraft would help, too. JetBlue has many partner airlines at JFK but in most cases passengers must transfer terminals – outside security – to move between flights. Consolidating into a joint T5/T6 complex would ease many of those connections.

JetBlue readies for international arrivals at JFK T5i

Today JetBlue’s T5 handles Hawaiian Airlines, Aer Lingus and TAP Air Portugal with as many as five daily flights. Of those, only the TAP flights require inbound customs and immigration service. But four of the five are A330 aircraft, a type that requires blocking at least one adjacent gate in most scenarios. Designing a new terminal that can handle larger jets without blocking adjacent gates will improve the overall utilization of the facility. And it would potentially let other partners join JetBlue in its terminal. Candidates for such a move include Air China, Aeroflot, ANA, China Airlines, Egyptair, EVA Air, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Singapore Airlines, and Turkish Airlines. I believe these more likely based on flight frequencies (mostly 1x daily at JFK) and aircraft size, as well as current terminal assignment.

JetBlue, Aer Lingus bring Ireland into JFK’s T5

Other partners, such as Emirates and Etihad that could also be considered. They operate more flights, all on A380s, that make such a shift more challenging. Other partners, such as Cathay Pacific, Brussels Airlines, Iberia, JAL, and LATAM hold tighter ties with other partners at JFK or a parent company with an ownership stake in one of the other terminals at the airport.

One interesting twist is that JetBlue also talks about an option on redesigning Terminal 7. That space is owned and operated by British Airways today; a $65mm renovation was recently announced. Taking over management of the terminal from BA would be a most intriguing shift, though perhaps the Brits are ready for such a move. The current BA lease runs through 2022.

Video: British Airways plans $65mm renovation at JFK Airport

BA is reportedly set to remove all its local staff from the final 10 stations in the USA, including JFK. Giving up terminal management makes sense as the company works to reduce headcount and focus on core operations. If JetBlue manages to connect T5 to a revamped T7 through the new T6 that would be a significant improvement for passengers. It would bring together nearly as many airlines as are in the T4 complex inside a common security area. Depending on the layout of the new terminals and which partners are being accommodated A380 gates might suddenly become available to BA for some of its daily flights, too.

A new T5/6/7 complex looks large on the map but the overall distances remain reasonable. As currently built the walk from Gate 1 at T5 to the far side of T7 is a hair over a half mile. That’s 10-15 minutes walking for most people and shorter than the walk from JFK T4 security to the far end of the new Delta RJ farm or end-to-end of Denver’s Terminal B. So, a long hike but not impossible. And JetBlue seems to be able to maintain moving sidewalks, unlike the PANYNJ; that should help travelers, too.

Also, the new terminal will connect nicely with the TWA Hotel being built at T5. That project finally brings the original Eero Saarinen terminal back into active use. Construction began in December 2016 and is expected to complete in 2018. Mostly it looks like a big pit these days, but that will change soon enough.

The TWA hotel, with the Eero Saarinen terminal at its core, is rising at JFK T5.
The TWA hotel, with the Eero Saarinen terminal at its core, is rising at JFK T5.

Getting more landing slots would bring a more significant impact to JetBlue’s operations, of course. But no new runways are coming nor will the ATC procedures change dramatically in the near future. At this point better terminal layouts to reduce peak ground delays (Hi, T1!) and generally make the in-terminal experience nicer (Terminals 1, 2 and 7 are all pretty bad) are the best a passenger can hope for.

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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. “And JetBlue seems to be able to maintain moving sidewalks, unlike the PANYNJ; that should help travelers, too.”

    Wrong. These moving sidewalks were inoperative for YEARS. They just came back online a few months ago.

    1. The broken moving sidewalks were being managed by Bombardier at the time as part of their AirTrain operations contract with the Port Authority. JetBlue was frustrated by the unreliability and slow pace of repairs, so they took over operations, did the maintenance, and now they’re working again.

    2. Correct. They were broken for years because JetBlue was not responsible for the maintenance. Once it took over that role they were quickly fixed and remain in working order.

    1. At this point there is no indication the FAA is going to allocate more landing slots. It is more about having space on the ground for all the planes, especially as average gauge continues to increase. Aer Lingus used to have more 757s than A330s at JFK, for example. DL’s RJ farm used to be a bunch of 50-seaters, not the 70-seaters we see today. JetBlue has A321s that weren’t in the fleet plan when T5 was built IIRC.

      So even without changing the number of flights at the airport the terminals need to grow to accommodate the passenger volume.

  2. Long time reader and I appreciate what you write and share since I am a very active traveler. I do have a request. Can you cage the color of the text? As you age gray on white is hard to read and blends together. i have noticed this on many restaurant menus and it has caused problems for family and friends. Thanks!

  3. What is going on with T8 in that picture? Looks like an entirely different building!

    1. It is a rendering of what the PANYNJ thinks might happen with a full rebuild of the terminals. T8 could use the additional capacity and switching to “fingers” like that would help in terms of more efficiently using the limited space available, I believe.

  4. I think what will happen by 2030…

    New T6 is built
    T8 Main building finally builds out and BA moves (T8 is not currently 100% built)
    New T7 is built
    T2 is demolished and T1 gets expanded
    Some airlines move from T4 to T5 and T1 (after expansion) leaving all of T4 to DL/KL/AF

    1. Remember that AF is a partial owner/operator of T1. I’m not sure when that lease is up but it could affect any moves. Also, DL/AF/KL/VS isn’t enough to fill T4. They’ll still need some other “friends” to hang out there.

      I know that T8 is not fully built out today but I’m curious if they’ll just finish the second pier as currently designed or switch to this 3-finger design the PANYNJ put in the renderings.

      1. Yes I forgot about AF being a partial owner of T1… Then we also have the Schiphol group owning T4. I figure KLM probably gets a “bulk” deal with Schiphol group for gate leasing and do not have to worry about capital outlay for terminal constructions that AF would be on the hook if T1 expands.

        I didn’t realize that T4 is that massive being able to absorb all of DL’s T2 ops plus their “buds”. It would be ideal to have all of Skyteam under one roof too to better cater connections in the NE US/NE Canada.

        T8 is probably the most interesting one after T7 since the terminal is still very new and well designed. Is it worth putting billions of dollars to basically redo the terminal or be more conscious with cost and build out the main terminal north wing (they could make that the “BA wing”). I think T8, while not the most efficient from ground use perspective, does not face much of the tarmac traffic problems that other terminals face given its location on the airfield. Then again, it is the PANYNJ – the city authority where simply muttering their name equates to ’nuff said 😉

        Interesting times ahead for JFK/LGA for sure… Those renovations are much needed – although some components may be a little overboard IMO.

  5. We were given rights of first refusal for the T6 parcel. I know the real estate team has had their eyes on developing that parcel into a new terminal.

  6. T5i was originally built with a phase 1 and 2. Phase 1 is what was built, and phase 2 will add an additional 5 gates all are designed for wide body a/c. This phase would encompass most of the remaining terminal 6 foot print.

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