New York's JFK Airport will receive a $10 billion injection to claw back its reputation from being one of the worst passenger experiences in the world.
Major elements of the upgrade will include increasing interconnectivity between terminals, public transport and roadway upgrades, new dining and shopping outlets and airport security improvements including facial recognition technology.
A terminal upgrade is sure to be welcome news for the thousands of Australians who head to NYC annually for business and pleasure. Regular Qantas passengers will know the congestion that comes with the outdated check-in facilities and very limited seating in Terminal 7.
JFK has been a target of passenger criticism for years. It's often ranked ahead of Newark and LaGuardia, though only by the smallest of margins. Current Skytrax ratings place Newark at 2/10, with JFK and LaGuardia pulling even at 3/10.
It is also one of the only major airports in the world without a single seat ride from the city centre. I've had several customers switch to private airport transfers in New York specifically for this reason.
Alleviating the transport issues to and from JFK will be a major boost to the traveller experience. One thing that's struck me about the commute from Manhattan to JFK is the unappealing choice between lengthy or slightly less lengthy and expensive. It's a frustrating proposition if time is a factor and you're stuck trying to hail a cab.
The new proposal includes multiple options for a single seat rail solution from Grand Central or Penn Station. Unfortunately, the complexity and cost of installing a suggested super express train could mean New York will never have a Heathrow Express equivalent. However, the alternate rail options will still deliver a much shorter and smoother experience than the current Airtrain service.
For travellers who rely on cabs, planners are looking to widen the perpetually congested Van Wyck Expressway in both directions. This is anticipated to deliver a shorter journey time but it's unlikely to make a dent in your expense claim. Cabs from Manhattan charge a flat rate of $52 plus tolls to JFK and if you're travelling between 4pm and 8pm, you'll also cop the $4.50 rush hour surcharge. With the improvements likely to bring a toll increase, the new rail solution will undoubtedly be the better option for saving time and money.
As a major port for Australian business travellers, a transformed JFK airport would be a terrific asset for boosting passenger sentiment. Time will tell whether JFK is mentioned in the same breath as Dubai or Changi but an upgrade of this scale is a great first step.