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 in November, news media and local leaders got their first glimpse of a brand-new Terminal A at New Jersey’s Newark airport (EWR), which officially opened to the flying public on January 12, 2023.
The $2.7 billion facility is expected to handle nearly 14 million passengers annually, with 33 gates spread out over 1 million square feet. Airlines operating in Newark’s terminal A include Air Canada, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United.
The previous terminal, which has a date with the wrecking ball in the near future, 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.
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 The facility, he admitted, was “woefully out of date.”
What’s new in Terminal A
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.
Other highlights of the terminal 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 airport 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 are “common use,” meaning passengers can check in for any airline’s flight from any kiosk. The kiosks are also 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”
A two-phased opening
Terminal A is opening in two phases—as of January 12, the first 21 gates are now 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.