Situation: Delta’s dumb decision to demolish iconic Pan Am terminal at JFK

In a remarkable show of arrogance, Delta just released a timelapse video bragging about their new terminal at JFK airport. The only problem is, they are demolishing the iconic Pan Am Worldport terminal as part of the plan. On August 6, 2010, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey and Delta Airlines announced a $1.2 Billion plan to build a new terminal for Delta and to demolish the old Pan Am Worldport terminal.

But boasting about the new building today seems to have backfired because Facebook was quickly barraged with comments (all negative) about their decision to destroy this much-loved building. For starters, part of the plan is for Delta to replace the original “umbrella” section of the building with a parking lot! What is Delta thinking?! And why are they so tone-deaf to what customers and the general public want?

JFK serves as a critical gateway to the United States for visitors from around the globe. Iconic architecture is paramount to introducing visitors and tourists to the best this country has to offer. The “Pan Am Terminal” was designed by Ives, Turano & Gardner Associated Architects and Walther Prokosch of Tippets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton in 1960 as a showcase for international jet travel, and is known worldwide for its 4-acre  “flying saucer” roof, which is suspended far from the outside columns of the terminal. It is a remarkable feat of architecture and engineering alike. The terminal was originally designed to allow aircraft to park under the partial overhang, which sheltered passengers as they boarded the aircraft by stairs or by uncovered bridges. The design is a unique portrait of this moment in time and holds unprecedented value as a historic resource.

But Delta seems proud that they are destroying this historic monument and replacing it with a generic, corporate Wal-Mart-style terminal building in an attempt to ramp-up profits.
In a USA Today article, it’s reported that the 1.2 billion dollar overhaul is part of a strategy to “win more of the Wall Street fliers prized for frequent, last-minute bookings in premium seats.” Perhaps that’s the most telling statement in this story. The decision seems to be wrought with the same combination of hubris and stupidity that still permeates Wall Street culture. It also seems emblematic of the attitude that catering to Wall Street and not the general populace is what matters to corporate America and to Washington DC alike.

The article also comments Delta is “‘playing catch-up’ in the New York area after its biggest rivals in the market have all made dramatic overhauls to their facilities during the past decade. Among those are new JFK terminals by both American (2007) and JetBlue (2008) and a $1.4 billion upgrade by Continental (now merged with United) at Newark Liberty in 2001.”

That is a very interesting observation since JetBlue took the iconic Eero Saarinen TWA terminal and rehabilitated it, instead of demolishing it, and integrated it into their expansion. The Saarinen building was renovated in 2008 and includes JetBlue Airways‘ Terminal 5. Bravo JetBlue!!!

Additionally, the City of New York designated both the interiors and the exteriors of the Saarinen terminal a historic landmark in 1994. And in 2005, the National Park Service listed the Trans World Flight Center on the National Register of Historic Places. Delta needs to follow the lead of JetBlue and recognize the historical significance of this structure to the public and rethink their the decision to demolish it.

The USA Today article goes on to quote Delta by saying, “one of Delta’s top executives likened the airline’s Terminal 3 at JFK to something one might find in a ‘Third World country.'”

“‘They are losing a certain amount of traffic because people dread that terminal,’ Maxim Group analyst Ray Neidl says to Bloomberg.” Wow!!! How is that for tone-deaf? To refer to a global historic architectural icon as “dreadful” is unforgivable and unconscionable. Is Delta really this dumb? Don’t they care about how the public sees them? Don’t they know people pay attention to these sorts of things? Don’t they know people care about these buildings? They are an inextricable part of our collective memory and hold  intangible value as symbols of our past. ABC has a new show called Pan Am that attributes much of its success to the iconography of Pan Am. The company is an unprecedented American icon. And although Pan Am no longer exists, this amazing building still does!

This is clearly a serious situation that needs to be addressed. Please take a moment to comment to Delta on their decision to destroy this crucial part of our history!

Here is the Save Pan Am Worldport facebook page, please “like” it!

And sign the petition to save this American icon!!!


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