New York JFK has come in for a lot of criticism over the years. Flight delays, lost bags, missed connections, poor customer service, dirty, crowded facilities and long security lines are just some of the grumbles often levelled against the US’ busiest international airport. In October US travellers taking part in an airport passenger survey conducted by lounge access company Priority Pass ranked JFK alongside Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta as the three worst airports in the world.
And who of course can forget Steven Spielberg’s 2004 comedy film ‘The Terminal’, which saw Tom Hanks’ character, Viktor Navorski, a hapless tourist from an Eastern European country, trapped inside JFK airport unable to go home or enter the US? With his visa and passport rendered useless, Navorksi is forced to spend nine months living in the limbo of the airport terminal, surviving on fast food joints and spending his days staring aimlessly at shop windows.
In truth, however, JFK doesn’t deserve all this negative press. As long as its hours (rather than months) before your flight, we think there are far worse airports to be stuck in as long as you don’t spend your time kicking your heels at the gate, and know where to go. In fairness, much of the disruption at the airport in recent years has been due to an ambitious multi-billion dollar redevelopment programme, which is now beginning to bear fruit.
For instance, consider the new, beautifully re-modelled JetBlue Terminal 5, which opened last October. The 635,000 square foot building features a host of customer-friendly features, from the huge windows letting in natural light and the great views of the runway to the children’s play area, the free Wi-Fi and the clever touch-screen monitors at the gates, which allow travellers to order meals from a 60-item menu to be delivered straight to their seat.
The terminal boasts an impressive line up of 25 shops. Our pick of the bunch is Muji To Go, a great Japanese accessory store, selling a wide range of reasonably priced items including bags, business card holders and even umbrellas. Then there’s surfer-style clothing from the Ron Jon Surf Shop, silver jewellery from Mexican brand Taxco Sterling, and great New York sports clothing and collectibles from WFAN (a shop run by one of the city’s most popular sports radio stations).