BA100: 68. New York JFK Terminal 7

100 Years Of British Airways: British Airways is the only international airline to have its own terminal at New York JFK.

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New York JFK Terminal 7
New York JFK Terminal 7 (Image Credit: GMW Architects)

This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.

Opened in 1970, what is now known as New York JFK Terminal 7 is the only terminal at JFK airport to be owned and operated by an international airline.

Designed by the British architectural practice GMW Architects and initially known as BOAC Terminal, the terminal was first shared between BA’s immediate predecessor BOAC and Air Canada.

The terminal opened at a time of rapid expansion in international travel with the arrival of the Boeing 747 aircraft. BOAC completed its inaugural Boeing 747 flight from London to New York in April 1971.

The design of the terminal, with its relatively low key presence and sharp lines, is largely driven by practical considerations, notably the need for a clear sign of sight for the JFK Air Traffic Control tower. It was also designed to be capable of withstanding helicopters landing on its roof. However, it was never used for this purpose.

The terminal was officially opened by HRH Princess Alexandra on 24 September 1970.

New York JFK Terminal 7
New York JFK Terminal 7 (Image Credit: GMW Architects)
New York JFK Terminal 7
New York JFK Terminal 7 (Image Credit: GMW Architects)
New York JFK Terminal 7
New York JFK Terminal 7 (Image Credit: GMW Architects)
New York JFK Terminal 7
New York JFK Terminal 7 (Image Credit: GMW Architects)
New York JFK Terminal 7
New York JFK Terminal 7 (Image Credit: GMW Architects)

BOAC was not shy in promoting the fact it was the only international airline to have its own terminal at JFK, with its own Customs & immigration facilities, as per this message from BOAC’s well known manager at New York, Ron Burrage:

Ron Burrage, BOAC Manager, BOAC Terminal, Kennedy Airport, New York, 1970
Ron Burrage, BOAC Manager, BOAC Terminal, Kennedy Airport, New York, 1970
"Only two airlines have their own terminal into New York" BOAC Terminal, Kennedy Airport, New York, 1972
“Only two airlines have their own terminal into New York” BOAC Terminal, Kennedy Airport, New York, 1972
"Only our terminal in New York can get you from seat to street in 15 minutes" BOAC Terminal, Kennedy Airport, New York, 1972
“Only our terminal in New York can get you from seat to street in 15 minutes” BOAC Terminal, Kennedy Airport, New York, 1972

In its later years the terminal has been shared between BA and number of airlines including United Airlines (before it exited JFK) and many Oneworld alliance partners.

CGI image of planned redevelopment of New York Terminal JFK Terminal 7, 2008 (not realised)
CGI image of planned redevelopment of New York Terminal JFK Terminal 7, 2008 (not realised). (Image Credit: British Airways)

In 2008, BA announced ambitious plans to redevelop the terminal, including the creation of a “drive thru” check-in for BA Gold cardholders and First Class passengers. However, these were put on hold due to the financial crisis.

BA has recently completed a more modest refurbishment of the terminal including a refurbished First Class and Club lounge. Whilst Terminal 7 is certainly not the most modern terminal in JFK it has been popular with frequent flyers, particularly for its short walking distances and its expansive lounge complex. BA has the largest portfolio of lounges outside of London at JFK and the JFK Concorde Room is arguably one of the best lounges on the network.

However the fate of Terminal 7 was sealed in 2018 after the Governor Of New York State Andrew M Cuomo announced a redevelopment of New York JFK.

Terminal 7 was dubbed “48 years old, undersized and functionally obsolete” and earmarked for demolition. A new terminal will be developed by JetBlue on the site of Terminals 6 and 7 and connected to JetBlue’s existing home in Terminal 5. Construction is expected to begin in 2020 with the first new gates opening in 2023 and substantial completion expected in 2025. BA plans to join its joint-venture partner American Airlines in Terminal 8 from 2022.

You can continue reading our 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA in numerical order, by theme or by decade.

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