A First Look at Newark Airport’s Seriously Upgraded New Terminal A

The much-anticipated improvement over its worn-out predecessor will officially open to the flying public on December 8.

The TSA security area at Newark Liberty International Airport's new Terminal A

As travelers pass through security in Newark’s new Terminal A, they’ll be reminded of some of the bold-faced names that have called New Jersey home.

Courtesy of Newark Liberty International Airport

Anyone who’s flown through New York City recently knows that the city’s airfields are undergoing a massive overhaul—witness LaGuardia’s transformation from ugly duckling into a gleaming 21st-century facility. John F. Kennedy International Airport is also in the midst of a makeover. Now, it’s Newark Liberty International Airport’s turn.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony this week, news media and local leaders got their first glimpse of a brand-new Terminal A at New Jersey’s Newark airport (EWR), which will officially open to the flying public on December 8, in time for the end-of-year holiday crush.

The $2.7 billion facility, which will be home to Air Canada, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United, is expected to handle nearly 14 million passengers annually, with 33 gates spread out over 1 million square feet. The existing Terminal A, which has a date with the wrecking ball sometime after it closes on December 7, was designed to handle 9 million fliers per year when it opened nearly 50 years ago. As the number of air travelers grew, the resulting overcrowding only worsened Newark Airport’s dismal reputation—the hub often falls at or near the bottom of airport customer satisfaction rankings.

Seating areas and stores postsecurity at Newark Liberty International Airport's new Terminal A

The new terminal features a play area and dozens of restaurants and stores; it will ultimately house more than 30 gates.

Courtesy of Newark Liberty International Airport

At the unveiling on November 15, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said, “It’s hard not to imagine people arriving at this new terminal and saying, ‘This is Newark Liberty?’”

He added that the old Terminal A has been “a trying, occasionally painful, and often exhausting place” for passengers to navigate. The facility, he admitted, was “woefully out of date.”

The new terminal presents a striking contrast with its dowdy predecessor, with high ceilings, airy, light-filled concourses, and an eclectic array of design touches, such as murals and other public art works from New Jersey artists. The spacious gate areas feature 60 percent more seating capacity, and some are spruced up with trees and potted plants. Charging stations are located at each gate, and the entire airport offers free Wi-Fi. A Central Rotunda is home to a food court and, perhaps the most striking feature of the new terminal, a cluster of digital towers deemed the “Forest of Firsts” honors various “firsts” in New Jersey’s history, including in science and literature. (For instance, there’s a depiction of Thomas Edison, who invented the phonograph and an early version of the light bulb at his New Jersey laboratory.) There are also several play areas for children.

Digital art columns depicting flowers and greenery in Newark airport's new Terminal A.

Newark’s new Terminal A features ample art pieces, such as these digital columns.

Photo by Barbara Peterson

Other highlights of the terminal will include:

  • More than 60 concessions, with locally themed eateries like New Jersey Mike’s Subs, Playa Bowls (which serves açai and poke bowls, smoothies, and juices), and Jersey & Co. Gelato, alongside popular national brands like cult hamburger outpost Shake Shack and ubiquitous coffee chain Starbucks. The ample retail stores feature major brands like Boss, MAC, Kiehl’s, and Tumi.
  • Four lounges, including an American Admirals Club, a Delta Sky Club, and a United Club, plus a signature American Express Centurion Lounge with views of the Manhattan skyline and Newark harbor
  • 60 check-in kiosks spread out around the departures hall that will be “common use,” meaning passengers can check in for any airline’s flight from any kiosk. The kiosks will also be able to support touchless facial recognition technology, and biometric boarding gates are in the works, according to officials.
  • Modern bathroom areas designed to represent different regions of New Jersey, including “coastal shores” and “metropolitan chic”

Terminal A is opening in two phases—next month 21 gates will be open, and the remaining 12 gates will be finished later in 2023. Officials at the unveiling suggested that the Terminal A project is only the first step in bringing the entire airport up to par with the best airports in the world. Newark also includes a Terminal B, which houses international airlines, and Terminal C, home to United operations—although United will also be getting some gates in the new terminal as well.

Barbara Peterson is AFAR’s special correspondent for air, covering breaking airline news and major trends in air travel. She is author of Blue Streak: Inside JetBlue, the Upstart That Rocked an Industry and is a winner of the Lowell Thomas Award for Investigative Reporting.
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