If you’ve ever taken a flight out of Newark Liberty International Airport—and that would include many New Jerseyans—you know just how much of a drag the terminals can be. But the opening of Terminal A may just change your mind about air travel.
On a recent trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, I stepped into the newly opened Terminal A with some trepidation. Would it measure up to all the hype that a $2.7 billion construction project merits? The answer is yes.
The first thing that tipped me off that we weren’t in in the 1970s anymore was that everyone seemed, well, happy. The terminal was spacious, clean and orderly, and everything in it was brand-new. The furniture was modern and comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. There was plenty of seating. Marsh grass similar to the iconic plant found in the Meadowlands, as well as trees and gardens, decorate the waiting area. Even the bathrooms are pleasant, with maps of New Jersey cities decorating the walls of the stalls.
Travelers relaxed with their laptops on cozy wooden chaise lounge chairs, waiting for their flights. No one looked weary or frustrated. People actually smiled.
The changes begin with dropoff, where four lanes replace what was formerly a smaller road that often resulted in bottlenecks. There are wider sidewalks for travelers to pass through.
Once you step inside, the airy and bright terminal is striking. Natural light filters in through the floor to ceiling windows. Beautiful permanent public artwork by Layqa Nuna Yawar and Karyn Olivie signal that the Port Authority planned for something monumental when this one-million-square-foot terminal was designed.
After you pass through security, which was a breeze for me, you enter the main area where the gates are located. A concourse with New Jersey businesses welcomes visitors, with mini cupcakes (Tonnie’s Minis), Bold Newark (which features Black-owned local designs), the Black Home (a candle and lotion store from Newark) and Jersey & Co. gelato from Jersey City.
Leo Zuniga, co-owner of the Artist Pop Shop, based in Elizabeth, was there selling sweatshirts, T-shirts and prints designed by local artists. “We’re going to rotate art from local artists. We want to provide a unique experience,” he says.
Restaurants include Jersey-based concessionaires such as The Office, Jersey Mike’s and Town Bar + Kitchen.
Even New Jersey Monthly has a store there, selling magazines and snacks and showcasing beautiful pictures taken by past entrants in our annual cover contest with Unique Photo. A second New Jersey Monthly shop will open soon in the pre-security area.
This is just the first part of the construction; a second phase is expected to be completed this summer and will include 12 more gates (for a total of 33 gates), restaurants and shops.
Despite some opening-day hiccups, my flight with JetBlue got off without a hitch.
For now, airlines using the new terminal also include Air Canada, American Airlines and select United flights. Delta is slated to move in later this year.
The new terminal signals a new era for air travel in the Garden State, finally bringing some cachet to an airport that has long been disparaged as one of the worst in the country. I’ll certainly be back.
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