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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - New England air travelers will soon see some of the biggest rearrangements in airline terminals at Boston’s Logan Airport since the $500 million Delta Air Lines terminal opened a decade ago.
With the approval by the Massachusetts Port Authority board Tuesday of the first phase of an $85 million Massport/airline construction project, Logan will over the next 18 months be moving United and its newly merged Continental Airlines to Terminal B, in a new space that connects the American Airlines side of that terminal with the US Airways/Air Canada side. Fast-growing JetBlue will take over all of Terminal C (except for the gate used for Cape Air’s nine-seater service to the Cape and Islands), while Virgin America probably shifts to Terminal A.
And at the same time, Massport will build a through connection between Terminals E and C, through the space that used to be -– what else? – terminal D. That will open up gate space for Southwest Airlines after its takeover of AirTran Airways.
“We're trying to accommodate the growth of the carriers that are growing here,’’ interim Massport CEO David Mackey said in an interview Tuesday. “I don't think there will be a significant amount of disruption that the passenger sees from this project … It's largely going to be demolition work in space that's already been vacated,’’ such as gates in Terminal B once occupied by American Airlines’ American Eagle subsidiary before bankrupt AA began retrenching its Boston operations.
The two biggest immediate factors driving the terminal shuffles: the consummation of the United-Continental merger, which means a single airline now called “United” is mainly in C but, perhaps confusingly to some travelers, has ex-Continental flights to Newark, Houston, and Cleveland flying out of Terminal A; and the continuing rapid growth of JetBlue Airways, which scarcely a decade after landing in Boston is up to 100 flights daily and hopes to grow to 150 by 2014-15. That means JetBlue can use and needs all the gate space it can get in Terminal C.
Beyond that, the expanded connections between terminals on the airfield/post-security side of the airport represent, according to Mackey, a future where Logan is a dramatically easier place for travelers to make connections and for airport managers to reshuffle airlines as they expand and contract.
“Ultimately, the vision for Logan Airport is that we connect all of the terminals post-security so literally, you could go through security at terminal A and then walk, through the secured side of the airport, all the way around the airport to terminal E. That's the long-term vision here,’’ Mackey said. Also, “We can be much more flexible in moving carriers from gate to gate as they grow, as they merge, as they shrink, as they go into bankruptcy as sometimes happens.’’
It’s doubtful Logan will ever become any kind of significant hub airport - studies show that typically 90 percent of people using Logan have Greater Boston or New England as their departure point or ultimate destination.
But with better in-airport connections that don’t require people to go back out into public areas and back through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint to get to a second flight, Boston could become an appealing transfer spot for some number of people from the eastern U.S. flying to Tokyo – through new non-stop flights from Boston to Narita Airport starting April 22 on the 787 Dreamliner – or people flying to European destinations, who could take an airline like JetBlue or Southwest to Boston and make a Terminal C/Terminal E connection straight to the international flight.
With videographer David Jacobs.