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Delta’s New York-JFK expansion just got significantly scaled back

April 22, 2021
4 min read
Delta’s New York-JFK expansion just got significantly scaled back
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The pandemic has upended the entire airline industry, and it just claimed its latest victim.

Delta's expansion at New York-JFK, which was first announced just days before the coronavirus came stateside, won't happen as originally planned.

On Thursday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the major airports in the tri-state area around New York City, approved a resolution to scale back Delta's Terminal 4 expansion.

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The resolution breaks the planned expansion into two phases, one which is slated to begin in the third quarter of this year, and another which could be undertaken in the next few years, depending on the outcome of the pandemic and other factors.

The first phase of work is "60% smaller in investments," Derek Utter, the chief development officer for the Port Authority, said in Thursday's public board meeting.

The plan announced in February 2020 included 16 new narrowbody gates to be added to Concourse A in Terminal 4. Now, the current proposal includes just two new narrowbody gates and eight regional jet gates added to the end of Concourse A.

Delta's regional jet gates currently located at the end of Concourse B will be converted to narrowbody gates in the first phase of the updated plan.

(Slide courtesy of the Port Authority)

Other upgrades include $100 million in renovations of the existing check-in areas in Terminal 4, as well as a modified arrivals level curb to aid congestion. The previous plan included a new and expanded terminal entrance, as well as $400 million in passenger-facing terminal improvements, such as expanded seating areas, concessions and restrooms.

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The details of the exact terminal upgrades included in the first phase are still being worked out. Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority, told TPG that the terminal upgrades are "25% of what we originally wanted... much of that is still being designed by Delta and JFKIAT [the terminal operator]," he said.

Notably, the original plan called for a new Delta Sky Club at JFK, though it's unclear whether one will be built under the reduced project scope.

Delta's SkyDeck at JFK's Terminal 4 Sky Club (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Altogether, the new plan calls for a $1.5 billion investment, compared to $3.8 billion in the original proposal. The project will be funded by bonds issued by the terminal operator, JFK International Air Terminal LLC.

The Port Authority predicts that the project should be completed in roughly two years. Groundbreaking is slated for the third quarter of this year, with the new gates opening at the end of 2022. The remainder of the work should be complete in 2023.

As the project begins, flyers may experience disruptions when traveling through JFK and Terminal 4. Cotton told TPG that traffic plans are being developed to minimize any disruptions. "Construction inevitably has impacts on airport operations, but hopefully passengers will recognize the inconvenience — which we will be seeking to minimize — will be worth the new airport facilities," he said.

Related: LaGuardia’s new terminal is a major upgrade — see for yourself

By expanding Terminal 4, Delta will consolidate all of its JFK operations there, a move that's been contemplated for over ten years, according to Utter.

Before the pandemic, the Atlanta-based carrier split flights from both Terminal 2 and Terminal 4. In April 2020, Delta shuttered Terminal 2 due to the pandemic-related reduction in air traffic. The Port Authority plans to demolish Terminal 2 to make room for an expanded Terminal 1 at some point in 2022, according to Cotton.

The remainder of the Terminal 4 upgrades will be considered in a second phase of work, including ten new narrowbody gates, $300 million in additional passenger-facing terminal renovations and roadway improvements.

Thursday's announcement didn't discuss any of the other planned improvements for JFK, which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo first unveiled in January 2017.

Despite the pandemic, Delta is charging ahead with airport infrastructure projects elsewhere. The carrier is working on new terminals in Los Angeles (LAX) and New York LaGuardia (LGA), among others. That work is getting accelerated due to the demand downturn and drop in air traffic related to the pandemic.

In recent months, Delta, along with local authorities, inaugurated a brand-new terminal in Salt Lake City, one of its “core” hubs. The second phase of the new SLC airport could wrap up to two years early, also thanks to an accelerated timeline due to the pandemic.

Featured image by (Photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more