A Fond Farewell and Happy Hello at JFK: The WorldPort Terminal 3 Closes and Delta’s Expanded Terminal 4 Opens

Report and photography (unless otherwise noted) from New York by Airchive.com correspondent, Eric Dunetz

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On Thursday night, March 23rd around 10:30PM I made my way to Terminal 3 at JFK. It was quiet, not many people around except for a few Delta employees mulling around in their T4 t-shirts. There was no media. There was no pomp and circumstance. Without much fanfare a Delta Boeing 747, flight 268, bound for Tel Aviv pushed back from gate 6. On the last day of operations, few seemed to even be aware of the historic occasion. The main sign change was in the air were the moving vans positioned on the departures level. Many vendors had already closed and were moving inventory to the new nearby T4. Port Authority and Delta crews were relocating seats, computer systems, and monitors. With their attentions firmly fixed on their new Terminal 4 world class gateway, Delta and certainly the Port Authority didn’t promote the passing of Terminal 3. Now most people wouldn’t even bat an eye, but for those that knew this was the last day of operation at an icon of aviation, this was a significant day indeed. Tonight, the last ever flight would depart from what was once known as the World Port – the gateway of the jet age. Used by Pan Am until the “Chosen Instrument’s” December 4, 1991 demise, T3 was chock full of history: the inaugural commercial flight of the Boeing 747 originated here in January 1970, the jet-bridge was basically first used here with planes nosing in under the flying saucer to protect passengers from weather, and this terminal was the scene of countless history making flights such as the US-USSR inaugural at the height of the Cold War. Pan Am and The WorldPort were even portrayed in a clip from the movies “Live and Let Die” and faithfully recreated for the former ABC-TV series “Pan Am”. Unlike TWA’s Eero Saarinen designed Terminal 5, the WorldPort hasn’t gained preservation status and is slated to be demolished against the passionate wishes of many preservationists such as Save The Pan Am WorldPort. This historic terminal, the oldest still in operation at JFK, closed 53 years nearly to the day of its opening on May 24, 1960. It’s next use will be that of an apron for aircraft.

Extra: Additional WorldPort history and preview of Terminal 4 in Soho here.

Extra: New York JFK Delta Terminal 3 WorldPort images here.

Extra: Video passengers at gate of last flight to depart WorldPort, DL269 JFK-TLV here.

Extra: 007 takes a stroll through the WorldPort in 1973′s “Live and Let Die”

The Pan Am WorldPort photographed in July, 1992 seven months after Pan Am ceased operations. Delta acquired most of Pan Am's European routes and took over the terminal around this time.  Image Courtesy: joepriesaviation.net

The Pan Am WorldPort photographed in July, 1992 seven months after Pan Am ceased operations. Delta acquired most of Pan Am’s European routes and took over the terminal around this time.
Image Courtesy: joepriesaviation.net

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Pan Am 747 and 727 tails photographed at the WorldPort for a 1986 timetable

Pan Am 747 and 727 tails photographed at the WorldPort for a 1986 timetable

Pan Am inaugurated the world's first Boeing 747 service in January, 1970 at the Pan Am WorldPort.

Pan Am inaugurated the world’s first Boeing 747 service in January, 1970 from the Pan Am WorldPort.

The Press Kit from the Pan Am WorldPort's opening in May, 1960 from what was then known as Idlewild New York International Airport . The WorldPort closed 53 years to the day it opened.

The Press Kit from the Pan Am WorldPort’s opening in May, 1960 from what was then known as Idlewild New York International Airport . The WorldPort closed 53 years to the day it opened.

The famed Central Terminal Complex of JFK from the mid 1960s. The World Port is seen on the right side of the image as number "9". The extension was completed in 1969.

The famed Central Terminal Complex of JFK from the mid 1960s. The World Port is seen on the right side of the image as number “9″. The extension was completed in 1969.

A map of the Pan Am WorldPort from 1986. Gates 1-12 were added in an addition in 1969.

A map of the Pan Am WorldPort from 1986. Gates 1-12 were added in an addition in 1969.

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Moving vans on the departures level the last day of operations at the Terminal 3 WorldPort indicate change is in the air.

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Most passengers were oblivious or simply didn’t care that this was the last day of operations at the iconic WorldPort. Terminal 3′s condition deteriorated sharply in its final months, especially following Hurricane Sandy.
The following images are courtesy: Michael Frost

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These Delta employees, photographed on the last night at Terminal 3 WorldPort were excited about the future but bittersweet about saying goodbye to an aviation icon.

These Delta employees, photographed on the last night at Terminal 3 WorldPort were excited about the future but bittersweet about saying goodbye to an aviation icon.

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These images captured by Heike Doiron on the last day of the WorldPort operations show many tenants had already deserted and decamped for the new Terminal 4.

These images captured by Heike Doiron on the last day of the WorldPort operations show many tenants had already deserted and decamped for the new Terminal 4.

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Passengers on the last flight ever out of the WorldPort,  Delta flight 268 JFK-TLV, await their 11:24pm departure, initially delayed by weather. It was operated, appropriately by a Boeing 747-400. The first Boeing 747 commercial flight originated here in January, 1970 by Pan Am. Image courtesy: Jeff Yaspalater @jfknewsandviews

Passengers on the last flight ever out of the WorldPort, Delta flight 268 JFK-TLV, await their 11:24pm departure, initially delayed by weather. It was operated, appropriately by a Boeing 747-400. The first Boeing 747 commercial flight originated here in January, 1970 by Pan Am. Image courtesy: Jeff Yaspalater @jfknewsandviews

The facade and Delta branding burn bright the night of the World Port's last services. The next day, the Delta lettering would be removed.  Image courtesy: Jeff Yaspalater @jfknewsandviews

The facade and Delta branding burn bright the night of the World Port’s last services. The next day, the Delta lettering would be removed. Image courtesy: Jeff Yaspalater @jfknewsandviews

Delta Flight 268, from JFK-NRT departed shortly before midnight on May 23, 2013 becoming the last flight to operate at the Terminal 3 WorldPort. Image Courtesy: joepriesaviation.net

Delta Flight 268, from JFK-TLV departed shortly before midnight on May 23, 2013 becoming the last flight to operate at the Terminal 3 WorldPort.
Image Courtesy: joepriesaviation.net

In spite of all of its history, The World Port has been kept patched together just enough to sustain operations. It was now a rundown facility despised by passengers no longer meeting the needs of major airline in New York, especially Delta who is aggressively pursuing its goal to be the number 1 premiere airline in New York. Delta already operated some international flights from a few gates at Terminal 4, but change was literally in the air. In July 2011, Delta announced its move to Terminal 4 and a major 346,000 square foot expansion across the tarmac of its new home, which first opened in 2001. T4 would now measure over 2 million square feet, making it one of the largest terminals in the U.S. Terminal 4 itself replaced the original International Arrivals Building, which was a very unique showplace for international airlines. The expanded T4 would be Delta’s new showplace for its burgeoning New York hub and also allow it co-locate operations with Virgin Atlantic who Delta has acquired a 49% stake-in.

Extra: New York JFK Terminal 4 images here.

Extra: Delta new Terminal 4 promotional video and CGI virtual tour from 2011.

 

Terminal 4 opened in 2001, replacing the International Arrivals Building. This image dates back to 2008, 5 years before the Delta expansion.

Terminal 4 opened in 2001, replacing the International Arrivals Building. This image dates back to 2008, 5 years before the Delta expansion.

Delta's Terminal 2, formerly used by Northwest, Northeast, and Braniff, remains opened as the oldest remaining terminal at JFK. The WorldPort Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 are in the background.

Delta’s Terminal 2, formerly used by Northwest, Northeast, and Braniff, remains opened as the oldest remaining terminal at JFK. The WorldPort Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 are in the background.

The JFK WorldPort "Flying Saucer" Terminal 3 and the 1969 addition are in the foreground while Terminal 4 is seen in the background. This image date back to 2010 before the expansion of T4 began.

The JFK WorldPort “Flying Saucer” Terminal 3 and the 1969 addition are in the foreground while Terminal 4 is seen in the background. This image date back to 2010 before the expansion of T4 began.

The Delta Terminal 4 expansion photographed just as it was getting underway in November, 2011.

The Delta Terminal 4 expansion photographed just as it was getting underway in November, 2011.

As I arrived on Friday morning May 24th, to cover the opening of the new T4 expansion, I passed by the now closed T3. Not even 8 hours had passed since I was there and the place seemed lifeless and desolate. Workers had began ripping down airline signage and setting up barracades blocking off the entire terminal. Over in Terminal 4, workers were still installing the finishing touches in advance of the inaugural events that would soon follow.

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Crews make the final touches in the hours leading up to the opening of Delta’s Terminal 4 Expansion

Delta Employees Prepare T4

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Port Authority crews wasted no time in removing the Delta Airlines branding from the World Port, the morning after the Terminal 3 closed forever.  Image courtesy: Jeff Yaspalater @jfknewsandviews

Port Authority crews wasted no time in removing the Delta Airlines branding from the World Port, the morning after the Terminal 3 closed forever. Image courtesy: Jeff Yaspalater @jfknewsandviews

Less then 2 years after it was announced in July 2011, Delta celebrated the May 24, 2013 opening of Phase One, a $1.4 Billion expansion of Terminal 4 which gives Delta’s hub the enhancements to match its upgraded service levels and New York router structure. Passengers departing from T4 will experience a state of the-art facility with improved amenities and better services.

According to Delta, The new features and amenities of Phase One include.

  • Nine new and seven renovated international gates.
  • Improved and renovated check-in areas, including a dedicated Sky Priority check-in.
  • A centralized security checkpoint.
  • New dining and retail offerings such as Shake Shack, Blue Smoke and Buffalo Wild Wings.
  • A new 24,000-square-foot flagship Delta Sky Club with the first ever Sky Deck at Delta Sky Club outdoor terrace. (more on this later)
  • An in-line baggage system to streamline and improve the baggage handling system.
  • Improved Customs and Border Protection, baggage claim and re-check facilities.

Extra: Delta promotional micro-site on new Terminal 4.

DELTA AIR LINES NEW JFK TERMINAL 4

Delta’s new Terminal 4 check-in area is significantly expanded and renovated.
Image courtesy: Delta Airlines

“The state-of-the-art Terminal 4 facilities have been years in the making and Delta people, global customers and the residents of New York now have the international hub facility that they expect and deserve,” said Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive officer. “It’s an exciting time at Delta and JFK Terminal 4 is emblematic of the investments we are making in New York and around the world. We are celebrating today thanks to the hard work and dedication of our partners in this project including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, JFKIAT and the Schiphol Group.”

Extra: B-Roll Video of Delta Operations at Terminal 4 on Day One

When the closing of T3 was announced, many wondered aloud while the much less significant, over-crowded, and unloved Delta Terminal 2 would be preserved. Terminal 2 originally opened in 1962 for Braniff, Northeast, and Northwest. T2 has been Delta’s original JFK base of operations since the 1972 merger with Northeast. On Friday at the press announcement, they got their answer. This expansion is just the beginning, as phase 2 construction which is to begin immediately will add additional 11 gates to Terminal 4′s concourse B. When completed in 2015 Delta will have 27 gates and Terminal 2, now the oldest remaining Terminal still operating at JFK will become a thing of the past. Until then, there will be a shuttle bus connecting customers between Terminals 4 and 2 from gate 23. Plans for the connector were scrapped for obvious reasons, as well as the length between T4 and T2.

Extra: New York JFK Delta Terminal 2 images here:

Delta's Terminal 2, formerly used by Northwest, Northeast, and Braniff, remains opened as the oldest remaining terminal at JFK. The WorldPort Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 are in the background.

Delta’s Terminal 2, formerly used by Northwest, Northeast, and Braniff, remains opened as the oldest remaining terminal at JFK. The WorldPort Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 are in the background.

Delta's Terminal 2, opened in 1962, will continue in operations and be the oldest terminal still operating at New York City JFK. It is being upgraded.

Delta’s Terminal 2, opened in 1962, will continue in operations until 2015 and be the oldest terminal still operating at New York City JFK. It will be demolished thereafter.

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With heightened focus on the premium business travel market, Delta was dedicated to bringing a bit of panache and glamor back to air travel at Terminal 4. One of the most anticipated parts of the expansion is the opening of Delta’s Terminal 4 Sky Club, the largest in the Delta system. It offers a significantly updated experience including a chef-designed menu of cuisine such as sushi, cheese, charcuterie and dessert which allow customers the option of enjoying a pre-departure meal, enabling them to sleep immediately after takeoff. This is something that other carriers have offered for years on their international flights. Delta has developed a premium wine-by-the glass program for the Club with many vintages usually available only by the bottle, including Dom Perignon and Muga Prado Enea, Gran Reserva, through its Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson. Delta unveiled Ciroc Lounge which customers needing extra privacy can reserve.

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The Sky Club offers travelers a very unique customer experience in the Sky Deck which is a 2,000 square foot uncovered rooftop terrace with unprecedented views of JFK’s runways. its kind of reminiscent of the WorldPort when you could drive yourself up to the rooftop parking lot and look down and see all the jumbo jets moving about the field. Now passengers can sip champagne and watch planes in the comfort and relaxation of the Sky Deck. The Sky Deck was designed by renowned designer Thom Filicia in partnership with “Architectural Digest”.

IMG_5326_7_8 The Sky Zone is a place for kids. Specifically those kids traveling by them selves. There’s plenty to do to keep your child occupied while in the Sky Zone everything from board games to XBOX and lots of refreshments.

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Who needs Power? For those passengers on the never ending search for power ports, have no fear the new terminal expansion has power and USB ports almost everywhere. There is plenty of ports at each gate area as well as in the Skyclub. As mentioned before, Delta added 9 new international gates and renovated 7 existing gates.

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Many dignitaries were on hand to help Delta celebrate the opening of the new terminal including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who praised Delta for doubling the amount of employees working at JFK and help boosting the local economy. “Thanks to Delta’s $1.4 billion investment, travelers to and from JFK will experience a state-of-the-art facility with improved amenities and better services,” said New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “Over the past six years, Delta has doubled the number of employees based at JFK and created quality construction jobs, with a focus on local hiring and priority to MWBEs. We look forward to their continued expansion and partnership with New York City.”

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauded Delta and the Port Authority for their major contribution to the city’s economy with the opening of Delta’s Terminal 4.

Sir Richard Branson and his airline Virgin Atlantic which became a partner of Delta in December were also on hand. Mr. Branson did not speak at the event but did suggest to Delta CEO Richard Anderson that he loosen things up by not wearing a tie and promptly approached the stage and ripped Mr Anderson’s tie off and threw into the crowd of media and Delta Employees.

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Virgin Group Founder and CEO Richard Branson pretends to cut the tie of Delta CEO Richard H. Anderson at the opening event. Branson did in fact, cut “Anderson’s” tie later at event. Delta and Virgin now have closer “ties” then ever thanks to the DL’s 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic.

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Adding to the festivities with a little New York flare, Delta brought in some famous NY celebrities including Keith Hernandez, Walt Cldye Fraizer, Adam Graves and Bernie Williams. And even the Radio City Rockets made an appearance.

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The balloons dropped and Delta’s T4 was open. Fitting that the first flight out of this new terminal would also be a 747 like the night before to close terminal 3. Passengers and crew boarded flight 173 bound for Toyko through gate 41 and even pushed back a minute early at 2:37pm. As the tug pulled away from the aircraft it was given a water cannon salute.

IMG_5426_7_8IMG_5671__ As someone who had vowed never to fly Delta again from JFK after a few bad experiences I am really impressed with the new Delta Terminal. From the abundance of power ports to the views out the window and of course plenty of food choices to pick from this terminal experience should be a much needed improvement for any passenger flying Delta out of JFK Airport. Still, it is sad to lose another icon of the jet age, especially one as historically and architecturally significant as Terminal 3. When it is demolished by 2015, the last major visual symbol of Pan Am in New York will be gone. Progress marches on, but history will likely be sacrificed.

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The apron of the WorldPort, devoid of all aircraft and operations, is deserted on May 24th, the day after operations ended.
Image from: SaveTheWorldPort

Additional Resources:

Save The JFK WorldPort Facebook page here.

New York JFK Delta Terminal 3 Worldport images here.

New York JFK Delta Terminal 2 images here.

New York JFK Terminal 4 images here.

Delta’s new Terminal 4 New York JFK promotional page here.

Eric Dunetz is a professional photographer based out of New York, New York. His images have been published in print media and on numerous websites. Since 2010, he has covered several airline events including JetBlue events and Lufthansa’s first arrival of the Airbus A380 to the United States. He is also a contributing photographer NYCAviation.com and Airliners Gallery. Follow him on Twitter @SouthPawCapture and visit his website SouthpawCaptures.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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