With the novel coronavirus pandemic still wreaking havoc across the globe (albeit worse in the U.S.), and airport construction thrown into understandable disarray, it should come as no surprise that the massive renovation of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport has been delayed.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo first announced the much-needed overhaul of JFK airport back in 2017, when the project was projected to cost a mere $10 billion. Mott MacDonald and Grimshaw Architects signed on soon afterward to lead the master planning team, and an updated vision of the airport was revealed a year later in 2018, with an updated price tag to match: $13 billion.
The rehabilitation is necessary to better link up the airport’s disparate terminals into a cohesive single network, and the project will see several of the current terminals demolished and consolidated. While the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is handing over $1 billion for central upgrades, the private airlines in each terminal will be responsible for funding their respective portions. That includes a $3.8 billion expansion and renovation of Terminal 4 that brought the project’s overall cost to $15 billion; a $7-billion, 2.9-million-square-foot terminal on the airport’s south side will be developed by the Terminal One Group, comprised of four international airlines: Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air Lines; and a $3-billion, 1.2-million-square-foot terminal developed by JetBlue that will replace Terminal 7.
Work on the modernization plan has been well underway since December of last year and was expected to fully wrap up in 2025, but because of coronavirus-induced construction slowdowns, the precipitous drop in international air travel, and global recession, the project could be delayed by several years.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the plan to replace the current six terminals with four larger structures is in jeopardy as the Port Authority is reporting that passengers have decreased by 85 percent, and estimate the airport wouldn’t rebound to pre-COVID travel levels until 2023. Before the pandemic, the airport was expected to serve 70 million passengers in 2020 and up to 100 million annually by 2050, making the upgrade sorely needed. The modernization project would have, by adding more gates and streamlining operations, added capacity for an additional 1 million passengers annually.
While the Port Authority debates pushing back the 2025 completion target, the JFK Airport rehabilitation-slash-unification could also be scaled down in scope if the airlines responsible for footing the bill (and the Port Authority) don’t receive federal funding to help get out of the financial hole brought on by the coronavirus.