Alaska & Virgin America Are Moving To JFK’s Terminal 7

Alaska and Virgin America are still in the early stages of their merger, and have a lot of work to do in terms of consolidating and streamlining operations. This includes things like updating interiors, consolidating operations at airports, etc.

Alaska-Virgin-America

Historically Virgin America is the airline with the stronger presence at New York’s JFK Airport. Up until now Alaska has only had a single flight to JFK, and they’ll soon be adding a flight from Portland to JFK.

Well, the “new” Alaska has just announced their plans for their future at JFK. Alaska and Virgin America will be consolidating operations at JFK’s Terminal 7 as of October 2017. Presently Alaska operates out of Terminal 8, while Virgin America operates out of Terminal 4.

For those of you not familiar, Terminal 7 is primarily used by British Airways. It was also the former home of United, though they pulled out of JFK a couple of years ago. Furthermore, Cathay Pacific used to operate out of Terminal 7, but they switched to Terminal 8 earlier this year. Per the press release:

The airlines will join Alaska Global Partners British Airways, Qantas and Icelandair in Terminal 7, providing guests convenient access to a combined 17 daily flights to top global destinations across Europe and Australia. Alaska allows Mileage Plan members to travel and earn miles to more than 900 destinations around the globe through a unique network of international partners, with many flying out of JFK.

Alaska recently announced it will build an airport lounge at JFK, which will open in early 2018. Additional enhancements to the Terminal 7 airport experience, funded by an investment from British Airways, will help increase the efficiency of TSA security screening and provide new concessions for guests within the terminal.

British Airways is spending $65 million to modernize Terminal 7, so the terminal should be getting significantly nicer. It’s also interesting that Alaska will open a lounge at New York JFK, as neither Alaska nor Virgin America have one up until now. I imagine this will take over the space of the former United Club, which is currently empty. This is also potentially good news for Priority Pass members, since Alaska Lounges are typically also Priority Pass lounges (though they often place capacity restrictions on them, which is annoying).

British-Airways-Lounge-JFK - 51
JFK’s Terminal 7

Perhaps the one downside is that Virgin America First Class and Main Cabin Select customers can presently purchase access to Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse. The cost is $75 per person, which isn’t cheap, but it’s actually a fantastic lounge, so it’s a nice option to have. So soon there will potentially be free access to lounges, though the lounge won’t be nearly as nice.

Clubhouse-JFK
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York JFK

Bottom line

Alaska and Virgin America consolidating operations at JFK makes sense, and Terminal 7 is the logical terminal to move to, given that it has room for them to grow. It also allows them to build their own lounge, which I’m looking forward to. That being said, security at Terminal 7 can be pretty awful in the evenings, so I hope they have a TSA Pre-Check lane, and do what they can to staff the checkpoints sufficiently in the evenings.

What do you make of Alaska and Virgin America moving to Terminal 7 at JFK?

Comments

  1. I guess this means that BA isn’t moving to an expanded Terminal 8, as had been rumored to be in the works for a while. Which seems like a mistake to me — all of these new wall finishes and lights aren’t going to change the fact that Terminal 7 is cramped and outdated.

  2. @Lucky, Ever since VA was bought by AS, lounge access to Virgin Atlantic clubhouse cannot be purchased anymore. 🙁

  3. Agree – logical move. However, I wish they’d build an airside connector since American and Cathay are in T8.

    I also wish Cathay would build their own lounge at JFK. You’d think that might be a good idea considering they have 4 daily flights to HKG.

  4. Logical move, especially with the ability to redeem/earn Alaska miles on British Airways and Icelandair. I’d have to imagine there will be some connecting traffic between the three.`

  5. Can’t disagree more w/T7 being described as “cramped and outdated”. It is a nice gem of JFK w/all the new F&B of a few years ago. Curb to gate in 5-10 minutes is fantastic.

    BA is better off in a refreshed T7 than moving over to the big & sterile T8, esp given the awful security lines there at times.

  6. I’ve only been to the VS clubhouse as a SQ Suites passenger … it’s a perfectly acceptable lounge with decent food & bev and plenty of seating despite lots of evening flights–a little disappointing for SQ suites, but I understand the limitations are what they are with 1 daily flight to JFK.

    However … The notion that it’s worth anywhere near $75 before a mid haul domestic flight is pretty out of touch IMO. $75 buys you a damn good meal in Manhattan…

  7. @David W: My understanding is that the biggest challenge with this is that Terminals 7 and 8 are separated by the JFK Expressway, and creating a secure passageway for the 1000+ feet would be exhorbitant.

    T7 has its charm at times, but is quite hot during the summer. Hopefully the planned refurbishment makes it better, and maybe a TSA precheck line will coincide with BA adding precheck finally (they’ve not confirmed that, just hoping they finally will, though I’ve heard it’s not gone smoothly for LH thus far).

  8. Former United Club space is note empty. It is being occupied by The Seven Lounge at JFK used by LOT Polish for example.

  9. @Andy Huang: If you’re flying Virgin America first, you can still buy access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK. My family and I just did it this month. Further, the benefit is still listed on Virgin America’s website. Buying the lounge pass will come up as an option when you check in online.

    As for the value, it was WELL worth the $75 per person. All food and drinks are free. The alcohol was top shelf, and the cocktails were unique and superb.

    The food is restaurant quality and delivered to wherever you’re sitting by a waiter or waitress. You can order whatever you like and as much as you like.

    Further, as a Virgin America Gold member, I receive free spa treatments. I got my hair cut while waiting for my flight and watching planes land. 🙂

    Finally, the lounge has a variety of seating areas and wasn’t crowded at all. There’s also a pool table for added fun.

    Free top notch booze and food, a free haircut and exceptional service made this a great value for the money.

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