How have your experiences been through the airports?
Fred Dixon said that delays at JFK airport which regularly run to three hours are a “detriment” to the image of the city — and America as a whole.
sg1974 The writer should be thrilled he doesn't have to sit inside a grimey dimly lit main terminal at LGA. Or the badly outdated and crowded Terminals A and B at EWR. I know international passengers can struggle with wait times but just flying domesically can be a challenge from the NYC area.
Both are mediocre at best. JFK benefits from being close to Newark. JFK is only good if you compare it to one of the world's worst airports. I fly through JFK at least once a month, often more, Heathrow 3 or 4 times a year.
In my humble opinion there are some pluses and minuses and each is very terminal dependent so what follows is highly subjective.
Getting to/from the Airport Heathrow 7/10, JFK 5/10 (Newark 2/10)
Heathrow rates 7/10 since the Heathrow Express is great and frequent but is slightly expensive and only gets you to Paddington so you're still left with a choice between hauling bags up and down stairs in the Underground system or paying a lot for a slow onward ride in a cab. JFK cannot be considered to have a public transport solution and at certain times you have to stand in line for 45 minutes for the privelege of paying $70 for a cab. The permanetly congested Van Wyck should also take 2 points off the rating.
Best in class - Hong Kong, Zurich, Singapore. Worst - probably Tokyo - Narita in my experience.
Check-In/Security Heathrow 6/10, JFK 4/10 (Newark 2/10)
Heathrow has large terminals with long lines for security but if you are travelling Business you often get very short priority line access. I went through Virgin's Clubhouse priority lane and saw a security line of 1 person!
JFK has smaller terminals but suffers from the U.S. issue of apparently being comfortable with having 200 people on line for security. We are close to 15 years after 9/11. When are we going to accept that to be a world class airport, you should only have 10 people standing on line and staff appropriately?
World class - almost any airport outside of the U.S.
Lounges Heathrow 8/10. JFK 6/10
JFK gets marked down only because it suffers from the downgrading of lounges for U.S. airlines. If you are travellilng an overseas carrier, you are generally fine and have a global quality lounge.
World class - Singapore, Virgin Clubhouse. Lufthansa First Terminal. Dubhai....
Heathrow gets marked down for the 15 minute walk from security to the overly congested BA lounge and the 15 minute journey from the lounge to the gate.
Delays Heathrow 4/10, JFK 3/10
Both airports suffer from over-congestion in the air above them and suffer from delays as a consequence. JFK seems to be generally similar but suffers worse when there are storms.
Passport Control Heathrow 5/10, JFK 5/10
JFK as with all U.S. airports is awful but slightly better than Newark. It only gets a little kudos due to the new Global Entry program - well worth it if you fly through more than 2 or 3 times a year. London should be fine but does manage to screw things up with a very high frequency and also suffers from large terminals, insufficient staffing.
Baggage Handling Heathrow 4/10, JFK 4/10
My reference point is if I am travelling Business Class, how long do I have to wait for my checked bags after I have gone through passport control? Both are nowhere near world class. Singapore manages to somehow get bags on to the carousel within 10 minutes of reaching the gate. (Of course, in Singapore you'll personally arrive at the carousel in 5 but you can't quibble with waiting for bags in that scenario!) Zurich gives you a clock countdown so you at least know if you want to go and grab a coffee and calms the anxiety of not knowing when you're bags may make an apperance. Simply because it can be 20 minutes to get through security doesn't mean bags should take 30 to get to the carousel!
Overall, I should have just gone with Tommo's comments. They are as bad as each other!
oxymoronic Excellent post.
I love the terrible ratings for EWR you mentioned Terminals A and B opened in 1973 and Newark did not have a high utilization rate. However it exploded in the 1980s and into the 90s. However, they did nothing to upgrade terminals A or B. Terminal C isn't bad especially since United operates their hub and probably paid at least partially for it to be decent. The other two terminals are flat out awful. Security lines are terrible, and the long hallway to a tiny circle design is horrendous. Nothing like waiting 30 mins to get through security only to sit in an uncomfortable chair with 1-2 food options and no shops. I realize there are only 3 runways and since 2 of them are north/south and are affected by wind, it makes the airport highly susceptible to weather delays. It just seems to me the design was awful from minute one. It was built like a bus stop and not an airport that serves a huge market.
I would love to give Terminal C some credit but I can't. I flew Swiss Business Class from Terminal C recently.
Security was a joke. There was a combined line for Business/Economy until half way down the snake. It then separated with an Economy line and a Business/Star Alliance Gold line. Great, I thought. No kidding, it took 10 minutes longer than the Economy line. 45 minutes into my wonderful Terminal C experience, I had finally put my shoes back on.
I then made my way to the United Lounge. There are roughly 200 seats in the United Lounge. Unfortunately, there were 300 people in the lounge. People were sitting on the floor or milling around looking for a seat. The bar was heaving. You have to pay for anything other than domestic beer or industrial house wine. The toilets were nauseating. The free wifi provided less than 56kbps. (I checked, since I couldn't even check my email).
I decided to head out in disgust to find a decent restaurant where I could get served a decent glass of wine. I decided to go to the Grand Central Oyster Bar. How can you screw up a glass of wine and a raw bar I thought? Perhaps by employing brain dead idiots. The front desk was visibly annoyed that I didn't want to take a table but head to the bar. I watched the supervisor verbally discipline the entire wait staff for leaving their personal belongings behind the bar area. I, personally, don't care about where they leave their belongings but giving the highly unmotivated staff a verbal dressing down in front of the entire staff was extremely unprofessional. Service was simply atrocious. Inattentive. Uninformed. Couldn't care less attitude. Awful.
This compares to JFK T4 where the Business Class security line is typically no more than 10-15 long at the same time of day. The Swiss Lounge is well stocked with attentive staff, a reasonable view of the tarmac, and an area to shower. It's not perfect, there are far too few power adapters for instance, so I often login to the free, broadband wifi and head directly downstairs to the Palm Steakhouse where the staff are excellent and each bar stool has two power adapters under the bar.
Sorry, if Terminal C is the best that EWR has to offer, it simply reinforces my decision to never fly from there if I have any choice in the matter.
That believe every word of your post. I can absolutely see that happening. There is a high percentage of people who live in that area and work at the airport who have that indifferent, lazy, half assed attitude toward everything especially their job. Unfriendly, incompetent TSA agents, airline personnel, combined with an outdated poorly designed airport leaves one with the desire to never come to the airport ever again if they can help it.
I have had extremely good luck with Heathrow's Terminal 5. Never a problem. they are friendly and efficient. The same cannot be said about JFK. It's not necessarily the airline system or employees there. It's more the US Customs and Immigration people there. They act like they're 30 minutes away from a pension. Last time through, there were about 100 people in line behind me. Two agents working the counter. One of them just up and left. Don't know if he quit, went to the toilet, or retired. He didn't return in the 15 minutes that i took to complete the process.
At least 15 of the people in our group missed the connecting flight because of their lackadaisical attitude. If i MUST connect (and transit immigration in the US), I generally choose O'Hare.
Well, sg1974, personally, I have no positive recollections of JFK, but I do have two legitimate horror story experiences there. Fortunately, my JFK horror stories are increasingly "ancient history," and I'm guessing I haven't flown through JFK for the better part of a decade. For United customers, you're more likely to end up in the new and improved Newark (EWR) International terminal, which permits you to avoid JFK altogether, which is a good thing. And, for DC folk, it's much easier, convenient, and pleasant to take AMTRAK to NYC than flying anyway....
Oh, and there's much better plane-spotting for aviation geeks at LHR : Runway Watching: LHR Renaissance