New York JFK Terminal 8 Is Getting A $125 Million Refresh And All New Restaurants

In 2021 American Airlines put out a request for proposals for a new New York JFK Terminal 8 concessions program.

This is a major undertaking. In 2019, before the JetBlue partnership and when American was squatting on slots and had partially abandoned the New York market, sales in the terminal were $107.4 million across 21 food and beverage, 3 duty free, 12 specialty retail, 4 currency exchange and 8 travel essential outlets.

Today American Airlines announced a refresh of the terminal that includes new concessions partners. This follows renovation of the terminal that allowed bringing in British Airways widebodies, and the introduction of a new lounge complex and premium check-in.

American Airlines, in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) Airports, today announced a $125 million commercial redevelopment program for Terminal 8 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The project will feature a new Great Hall and is expected to bring more than 60 new shopping and restaurant offerings to the terminal. With an emphasis on locally owned and diverse businesses that will create economic opportunities for the community, the new program will showcase New York’s world-renowned culinary scene and establish a unique sense of place for travelers.

Credit: American Airlines

The project will mean “a complete redesign and expansion of the concessions program, including dining, retail, duty-free shopping, performance space and new digitally enabled experiences for American’s customers.”

Most of the release talks about how the winning group executing on the program has incorporated Minority Business Enterprise-certified equity partners, how the construction firm meets their Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise participation goal, and how concessions in the terminal represent opportunities for “local and minority businesses” to grow. Very little speaks to what will actually be offered to passengers except in the most generic of terms. And notably there’s not a redesign of gates and passenger seating areas.

This is a cornerstone of long-standing federal requirements in the FAA’s Airport Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program (dating to 1987) that impose requirements on airport concessions programs and that also apply to airport agencies receiving federal grants.

It’s an interesting and open question how the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Students for Fair Admissions interpreting Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as banning affirmative action in college admissions (where colleges receive federal funding) will affect government contracting, and programs like the Airport Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. It seems likely that this will be a future area of litigation.

Lest you believe that this focus in the new American Airlines terminal project trades off in any way with the passenger experience, I’d point you to the current passenger experience prior to the project! There is very little worthwhile to eat in the terminal. The only existing concessions that would be sad to lose is the Bobby Van’s Steakhouse just past security which participates in Priority Pass. (I guess the New York Deli is ok for to go items maybe?)

Again, we know very little about the actual food, services and brands that will ultimately inhabit the terminal, but we do know that they plan to push to “get 100 percent of all eligible tenants to become Certified Green Restaurants.”

Ironically this new investment is happening right as American is being forced to dismantle its JetBlue partnership which has been the crux of its JetBlue strategy. They’ve long lost money on flying in the New York market, too small to compete for corporate and loyal business with Delta and United. They’ve tried timing schedules to meet the needs of passengers heading to New York rather than New Yorkers, and they’ve tried running a ’boutique operation’ before hitting on the Northeast Alliance that lost in court against the Biden admnistration.

We don’t yet know what the future of American Airlines looks like in New York, but one thing American has seen since the launch of its JetBlue alliance made them relevant in the city, is that aggressively serving the market generates AAdvantage signups, credit card acquisition, and helps capture a share of card spend in one of the most important spend markets. I told Vasu Raja to expect this when pushing back on the airline’s approach to New York back in early 2019 when they had seemed to give up on the city.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yet no announcement regarding an upgrade of the badly outdated Admirals Club. Heck – if AA doesn’t want to improve its club there, invite Amex or Chase or Capital One or whoever in to build clubs.

  2. Well, if you’re not going to operate flights or board passengers, how about hosting more retail?

  3. I am surprised that AA is doing anything at JFK. With their winding down their alliance with JetBlue, what is their future plan that justifies doing anything with the terminal. My assumption was that the airline would likely almost pull out of the airport with the lack of feeder flights.

  4. @guflyer I think they could make a push back into the market. With most OW airlines under one roof except AS and Royal Air Maroc I could see both of them moving in which allowing for better connections. You could also see China Southern potentially move in as well being AA owns a significant portion in them and same with Aer Lingus. Now the real plan would be to have B6 join OW as were the original plans. Keep B6 in T5/6 then move AS/Aer Lingus into T5/6 being both wouldn’t need many international gates from there, keep the shuttle to T8 where then RAM and China Southern move in. Then OW would effectively have T5/6/8 all to themselves. This would also allow for the B6 NK merger to attempt to move forward. Them being in OW would not allow for “coordination and revenue sharing” but it would keep the codeshares and connectivity. This would also keep the Aer Lingus codeshare viable to B6 while the IAG/AA JV is protected. This now makes currently the largest terminal at JFK both used for connecting and O/D and a true OW hub. I could see AA moving to the midfield concourse for 99% of their flights a revamp of the AC and possibly a OW lounge (as they were planing entire alliance lounges) in T5/6 along with an AS/B6 for domestic use. The real pipe dream would be a post security bridge from T5/6 to T8 which would take a massive investment but the room is there. If by some miracle this happens OW becomes a much more major player for JFK.

    LGA then can be relegated for O/D routes and EWR for NJ based hub transfers.

  5. @guflyer You are forgetting BA and other one world airlines use T8. I assume their paxs have more time to eat and shop duty free since intl passangers get to airports earlier than domestic paxs. A few A380s can add people that want to eat and shop.

  6. I sure hope any “total redesign” doesn’t mean the loss of Bobby Van’s Steakhouse…one of my favorite airport restaurants anywhere!

  7. @Jim F – well there will be a whole new concessions program, so the default assumption is no more Bobby Van’s although it isn’t inconceivable it could be included.

  8. @Patrick, T6, when finished (phase 1) will be anchored by the Lufthansa Group of airlines, not B6.

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