Delta CEO: NY Residents Now Have International Hub Facility They Expect, Deserve

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Delta Air Lines opened a $1.4 billion terminal at Kennedy Airport Friday, strengthening its hand in the battle for the lucrative New York travel market.

The expanded concourse offers sweeping views of the airport, upscale food and shopping options and increased seating.

“The new terminal facilities here at T4 are officially open,” Delta CEO Richard Anderson said as balloons dropped on the dignitaries including the Radio City Rockettes and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“And now that Delta has rolled out this incredible welcome mat featuring iconic New York restaurants like Shake Shack and Blue Smoke from the great restaurateur Danny Meyer, its more than four million international passengers will begin the Big Apple experience the moment that they come here,” Bloomberg said.

Kennedy Airport is still the primary gateway to the U.S. It saw 13.1 million inbound international passengers last year, more than any other American airport, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Miami International Airport was the next closest at 9.8 million, followed by Los Angeles International Airport at 8.3 million.

Delta carries about 2.1 million of those arriving international passengers at JFK, more than any other carrier, according to the airport’s operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“The residents of New York now have the international hub facility that they expect and deserve,” Anderson said of the $1.4 billion upgrade. “It’s awesome. New York is awesome and how privileged are we to be the airline of New York City!”

The most unique part is a 2,000-square-foot rooftop deck that offers sweeping views of the runways and airplanes. But it is part of a new Delta Sky Club, accessible only to members or passengers flying international business class.

Port Authority officials told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello that the upscale terminal should help JFK shed its bad reputation.

“I do travel the world and I clearly believe we need to upgrade our airports to be 21st century airports,” Port Authority spokesman Scott Rechler said.

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 giant glass terminal replaces the crumbling 1960s Pan Am terminal.

Delta's new Terminal 4 at JFK Airport - May 24, 2013 (credit: Marla Diamond / WCBS 880)

Delta’s new Terminal 4 at JFK Airport – May 24, 2013 (credit: Marla Diamond / WCBS 880)

It also features creature comfort, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported. 75 percent of the seats at the gates have access to electrical outlets.

There are also upscale shopping options and faster security checkpoints.

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 ten buses to shuttle passengers between Terminal 4 and its other operation in Terminal 2. Delta’s lease in that terminal ends in 2020.

Delta’s strategy isn’t to be the cheapest airline. It aims to capture business travelers with more pleasant experience _ better planes, friendlier staff and more non-stop flights.

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