Flying through a passenger terminal at a major international airport should be a dream and when you are flying with the UK’s flag carrier British Airways you do come to expect that they will look to provide the very best in passenger services and comfort.
Well after what can only be described as a third world journey from the doors of Terminal 7 to our departure gate 3 airside – it was not the best start to our return flight home to the UK.
Yes I was flying from one of New York’s three major airports – Kennedy International – commonly known as JFK. The airport has always had a stature which would imply that you are about to enjoy that good old American hospitality, but I am sure that if JFK was alive today he would be embarrassed to have his name associated with a flight terminal that brings back memories of the 1960 – low ceilings, narrow corridors, poor lighting and a lack of seating for passengers.
Now I know that BA are making it clear to all their passengers that there is major refurbishment work ongoing in the terminal – basically what this means and what their website fails to highlight – is that the entire terminal is under reconstruction. Whilst the areas presently untouched provide some of the most dismal and depressing terminal conditions I have experienced anywhere. In essence the entire terminal should have be closed whilst refit out is taking place.
Queuing and boarding congestion
Lack of seating at Gate 3
Not that I totally blame BA for this inexcusable level of service but they and their passengers deserve better. I cannot imagine any American airline accepting this position in the UK. Congested gate zones located next to a noisy, dark and overcrowded bar and restaurant which have seen better days.
We were perhaps fortunate that we arrived at JKF over 2 and a half hours before departure (as we were recommended to do so by BA) to ensure that we could minimise any delays due to reconstruction in the terminal. Thank goodness we did as check in was painfully slow – as an aside I am still struggling to understand what are the benefits of having a Bag Drop desk – when you still join a queue for 25 minutes to have your luggage processed and have no time saving over passengers checkin in as normal. Come on BA give those passengers who have helped you save time in the check in process priority (it took me over 20 minutes this morning to print off my boarding pass in the hotel) over travellers who turn up and expect the check in staff to undertake all the work.
Now passing (or should I say struggling) through security was a very unsatisfactory process. No welcoming staff on hand (no ‘have a nice day’ here) and the entire zone was cramped, confusing and haphazard in its layout. On a busy day I imagine that is would be enough to try your patience.
Tired and outdated catering facilities
Artist impressions of upgraded gate zones
Having successfully negotiated the security channel we looked forward to escaping to sit and relax in one of the airport lounges (one where you can purchase on the day) and access a haven of peace and tranquillity. We were in need of some relaxation and solitude after negotiating the obstacle course to our gate – but it is clear that JFK cannot deliver this either. You need to go to terminal 8 for the lounge sir was the response – even when questioned the BA staff seemed embarrassed that their own executive lounge was small and outdated for their very important business and first class passengers.
So the only solution was to find 2 hard backed chairs to pass the time before we boarded our flight to LHR. Don’t ask me about the standards of the toilets, the antiquated PA system, the lack of FIDS system (sorry I mean flight information display screens) and the poor and dangerous quality of fixtures and fittings around the gate areas – I have seen better facilities at most Mediterranean holiday airports.
I am sure that after the planned $50m investment has been finished (signs stating by Spring 2018 are however a little ambitious to say the least) Terminal 7 will provide a much improved passenger experience. I did however find it quiet disconcerting to notice that the artist impressions look remarkably similar to the existing layout, decoration and seating ! So until I can guarantee an improved passenger experience I will certainly be sadly thinking twice about flying BA from JFK when I next fly from New York and I suggest you do the same if you want to end your visit to the Big Apple on a high.
Perhaps even consider flying from EWR (Newark) with BA as an alternative, its even easier to get to from the centre of Manhattan with a direct train service from Penn Station. But if you have to fly from JFK please also remember to leave plenty of time to reach the airport by taxi – the roads at peak times are very congested and can take you well over 60 minutes to drive the 18 miles to JFK
After the disappointment of JFK the good news however was that my wife and I had splashed out (using our hard earned Avios) and had decided to fly back home in World Traveller Plus with British Airways and we were soon relaxing with a glass of Cava in hand promising to return to New York again in the Fall.