Friday, April 10, 2009

JFK's Terminal 4

What a rotten design for a new airport terminal.

First the good news. The customs and immigration area is very well designed. Lots of capacity. Easy to figure out where to go next. Great signs (but you really don't need the signs--it's obvious where to go).

When you leave customs, you need to find where to check in for your connecting flight. There are no visual clues. When you come out, all you see is the doors to the outside for ground transportation. A sign says "Connecting Flights" and points through a small door to the left. There are a series of airline desks with baggage check-in scales. We get in line for NWA/KLM. When we get to the desk, we're told, "No, this is not the right place. This is only for reporting lost or damaged luggage. You need to go upstairs to level 4."

We finally find the escalators (continuing through the "damaged baggage" room, out a door, we discover the back side of the escalators. We take them up one level (with our baggage in tow). Finally see a sign that says Level 2. Finally find the next flight of escalators (behind us). Repeat on level 3.

We get up to level 4. Rows and rows of airline check-in desks. There are 4 aisles and we are in the middle. No signs for which airline is which directiton. We get lucky and guess the right direction and find a set of NWA/KLM counters. We stand in line for 20 minutes. When we get to the desk we are told, "No, this these are the counters for the flight to Amsterdam. It says so on the electronic sign above me." We point out that there is NOTHING on the electronic sign. Response. "Oh, sorry. You need to go down to those counters."

We go there and, WOW, very short line, we're told we are in the right line and get checked in. Go to another line to turn in our baggage (the TSA baggage scanning machines are out in the middle of the area--they didn't make it so the airline can just put them on the conveyor behind the counter.)

We go downstairs to the central area where all the food places are. Check our flight on the board--it's on time. Check the security line--it's long so we decide to get in it. ten minute line to check your boarding pass--another 10 minute line to go through the scanners. We get to the concorse. Only two food places on the boarding side of security. One a cart with oriental food that looks like it has been in the steam table for hours. One with pre-wrapped sandwiches.

Our flight is listed for departure at 5:30 from the same gate as the Egypt Air flight to Cairo is listed for departure at 6:10. The Egypt Air plane is at the gate. Checking the web with my cell phone, our plane shows a delay--until 7:20. Monitors in terminal still say 5:30.

In short, whoever designed this terminal should be forced to fly through it on every trip he or she takes.

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