“Newark Airport” and “stunning” don’t usually go together in the same sentence.
But with the opening of the airport’s new Terminal A, you may not believe your eyes.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), unveiled the airport’s much anticipated new Terminal A on Tuesday.
At $2.7 billion, the new facility represents the largest single investment in New Jersey by the Port Authority in the agency’s 101-year history. The terminal has been in the works since 2018, and it ushers in a new era for the airport that’s historically been ranked one of the worst in the country.
It spells perhaps the biggest passenger-facing upgrade yet for Newark, and it’ll be a massive improvement compared to the outdated Terminal A, which will close in conjunction with the opening of the new facility.
While the terminal isn’t opening until Dec. 8, elected officials, executives and members of the media were invited to attend the grand opening event Tuesday.
Words alone may not capture how much of an improvement this new terminal is, but New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy perhaps said it best: “We are here today to bury the old Terminal A … We will save our praise for this new, modern, bright, comfortable, expressive, frankly extraordinary Terminal A.”
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, it was time to tour the more than 1 million-square-foot facility — here’s what you can expect when the facility opens Dec. 8.
A centralized check-in hall
While the new terminal brings a slew of upgrades, the first is a centralized check-in hall that’s designed to handle nearly 14 million passengers each year.
The four-lane drop-off roadway leads directly into the expansive new facility. There are a handful of curbside check-in desks at both ends of the roadway, but most flyers will likely drop their bags and check in inside the terminal.
Once inside, there are six individual check-in piers, split up for each of the terminal’s four airline operators: Air Canada, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines.
United will continue to operate the majority of its Newark flights from its hub at Terminal C, but it will occupy some gates in the new terminal as well.
Delta Air Lines will also move into the new terminal during the second phase of construction — more on that soon.
It takes just seconds to realize how much of an upgrade the new check-in hall is. From the soaring ceilings to the plethora of natural light to the eye-catching artwork, the new Terminal A is simply stunning.
There are plenty of check-in kiosks scattered around the departures hall, all with facial recognition technology.
While most passengers will check in at a kiosk or desk, there are two dedicated premium check-in areas in the new terminal.
One is already branded for JetBlue’s Mosaic elite members and Mint business-class flyers, and the other isn’t yet dedicated to a specific airline.
The former is JetBlue’s most exclusive check-in area I’ve seen to date — it’s separated from the terminal and features a baggage repacking area and a dedicated passageway to TSA PreCheck security.
The latter is outfitted with two fish tanks, and it’ll be a swanky space for whichever airline chooses to lease this area.
The old Terminal A featured individual security checkpoints at each pier of gates. This made connections much harder and caused backups during the busiest departure banks.
Thankfully, the new terminal features about 30 Transportation Security Administration checkpoints that are all accessible from the departures area. Once you clear security (or after you’ve landed in Terminal A), you’ll have access to any gate without needing to be screened again.
The digital signage wall hanging above the security checkpoint will display live security wait times for all of the security channels on offer — Clear, PreCheck, priority and general security will be available from day one.
Note that the security lanes feature the new computed tomography, or CT, scanners, which seem to always take longer than the older machines.
Once you clear security, you’ll be on the upper level of the departures hall with expansive views of the terminal.
There’s a repacking area just past security. Once you collect your belongings, you’ll descend a set of escalators (or stairs or elevators) to the main departures level.
33 glorious gates
Once you enter the main departures level, you’ll be in the central plaza area, which is home to gates A7, A8, A27 and A28.
Turning left will bring you to the North Concourse (home to gates A29 through A34), while turning right will take you to the South Concourse (home to gates A1 through A6).
Heading straight will bring you to the East Concourse and gates A9 through A26.
Terminal A will be connected post-security to terminals B and C via an airside shuttle bus, which will depart from a ground stand near Gate A28.
While the physical facility is a night-and-day improvement compared with the existing Terminal A, perhaps the biggest upgrade is the amount of natural light that makes the space so much more inviting.
There are even some trees and small gardens spread throughout the terminal.
Another big improvement is the signage, which is color-coded in an updated, more readable font.
At the center of the three piers is what’s called the Central Plaza, where you’ll find a mix of concessionaires, restaurants and retail stores.
Many of the retailers are local to the Newark and New Jersey community and include popular names such as Playa Bowls and Jersey & Co. gelato.
You’ll find nationwide fan favorites like Dunkin’ and Starbucks, as well as additional dining and retail options, throughout the terminal as well.
Another big focus for the Port Authority is the introduction of local artwork throughout the terminal — a total of 29 local artists worked on the new pieces.
Perhaps the most iconic will be the “Forest of Firsts,” a group of digital pylons in the middle of the Central Plaza that celebrate New Jersey’s “firsts” across multiple human endeavors, including science, literature, energy and film.
You’ll also find other artwork throughout the terminal ranging from murals above the restrooms to paintings near most gates to two sets of circular capsules hanging in the main departures and arrivals hall.
The Central Plaza will also be home to three airline lounges located on the mezzanine level above the concessions.
The south side of the lounge area will be home to an American Admirals Club and Delta Sky Club, while the north side of this space will be dedicated to a new United Club that’ll also welcome eligible Air Canada and other Star Alliance flyers.
These lounges won’t be ready when the terminal opens Dec. 8, so we’ll be sure to follow up with additional details once these spaces open.
The terminal will also be home to a signature American Express Centurion Lounge featuring views of the Port of Newark, New York Harbor, Newark Harbor and the Manhattan skyline, a piano lounge, a jazz-themed bar and a speakeasy-themed cocktail lounge. Amex is also planning wellness rooms, workstations and multiple food buffets.
The Amex lounge will be located in the North Concourse, which is opening in the summer of 2023 as part of the second phase of construction.
At the outset, 21 of the terminal’s 33 gates will be operational. Each of the gates is designated as “common use,” which means that any airline can theoretically use any given gate within the terminal.
Throughout the terminal and at each individual gate, you’ll find plenty of comfortable seating.
There are coworking tables, individual chairs, recliners and benches spread throughout the facility. Each seat is within arm’s reach of a power outlet, USB-A and USB-C port.
There’s even a dedicated kids play area located at the end of the Eastern Concourse, near gates A18 and A19.
Additionally, fast and free Wi-Fi is available throughout the facility with no special credentials required. Download and upload speeds measured around 20 Mbps during TPG’s tour.
The gates feature plenty of digital signage, which can be updated in real time to reflect current flight status and other important information. This will also make it easier for airlines to shift between gates as necessary.
The restrooms also got a major upgrade in the new terminal. Each is designed with a unique theme, ranging from the beach to the mountains to the city of Newark itself.
You’ll find plenty of stalls, (functioning) sinks and tall ceilings in all of the terminal’s restrooms. Better yet, there seems to be a restroom nearly everywhere you turn — a massive improvement compared to the current situation in the old Terminal A.
Aviation enthusiasts will undoubtedly appreciate the floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the terminal, which all feature great tarmac views.
If you’re looking to get as close to “the action” as possible, head to Gate A18 for fantastic views of the airport’s south runways with the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
Welcome to Newark
Arriving passengers are also in for a big upgrade with the new terminal.
After deplaning, you’ll make your way to the baggage claim area, which is accessible from two exits in the Central Plaza — one near the North Concourse and another near the South Concourse.
You’ll descend to the ground level where you’ll find six baggage claims. There’s plenty of space to move around or sit as you wait for your bags.
While you’re waiting, you may also catch a glimpse of the yellow, blue and purple “NJ” letters welcoming you to New Jersey.
Each airline will operate a baggage services office in the arrivals area if you have any issues with your checked luggage.
Once you’ve been reunited with your belongings, you’ll make your way outside to the pickup curb, which is split across six lanes.
There are dedicated pickup points for Uber, Lyft, hotel shuttles and private cars.
Alternatively, if you’re renting a car or you parked your car at the airport, you’ll soon be able to take a covered passageway from the terminal directly to the new consolidated rental car (ConRac) and parking garage facility, which will open next year.
What’s next for Newark
Now that the new Terminal A at Newark has been unveiled, the next stage is the grand opening, which is set to occur Dec. 8.
The last flight from the existing Terminal A will depart Dec. 7, after which the facility will be permanently decommissioned and demolished.
On Dec. 8, the first (and primary) phase of the new Terminal A will open. The Port Authority is still working on the second phase of construction, which includes 12 new gates that’ll bring the grand total to 33.
The second phase, along with some final touches in the first phase (such as the three airline lounges and some concessionaires), will open at points throughout 2023.
Once the second phase is complete, Terminal A will feature 33 gates, which will be enough room for Delta Air Lines to move into the terminal from its existing space in Terminal B.
While Terminal A will be operational in just a few weeks, there’s even more good news for Newark Airport.
The Port Authority recently shared that it selected a master planner responsible for developing a plan to modernize the airport.
Details are light at the moment, but the Port Authority is serious about making major infrastructure changes at Newark, which, based on the remarks at Tuesday’s unveiling, seem to include an upcoming overhaul of the existing Terminal B and possibly Terminal C, too.