July 30, 2006

American Airlines: Something Disgraceful in the Air

American Airlines terminal at JFK. (Photo by Tom Alfano)

American Airlines terminal at JFK. (Photo by Tom Alfano)

If book burning were the “in” thing, the executives at American Airlines would be lighting the fire. The top brass at AA have once again decided that history isn’t worth saving, this time at JFK. For the last few years, American has been working on constructing its new T8 and T9 terminals and they finally reached the point of knocking down their original landside complex.

Now they certainly shouldn’t keep the old terminal, in fact the sooner its gone the better but AA has decided that the trademark stained glass window that has stood as a landmark at JFK since the first day AA opened their terminal will come down. It was decided that the cost to save it, a million dollars wasn’t worth it. I’m glad those pompous cowboys in Dallas don’t run the national archives; they’d use the Declaration of Independence as a wee wee pad for their dogs.

Unlike U.S Airways, who has recently embraced its past with the release of their heritage fleet celebrating the airlines that make up today’s U.S Airways, American takes a different approach to its past. American’s approach is to totally erase any signs of mergers and buyouts that today make up American Airlines.

Remember their slogan during the TWA merger “Two great airlines, one great future?” One great future for you who? Certainly not the employees, routes, and legacy of TWA, the history of which was all but erased. Remember AirCal? I don’t. Oh what about Reno Airlines? These airlines are part of AA’s history and time and time again AA has dishonored their contributions to today’s American Airlines by wiping out any trace of their existence.

While progress is certainly important and facility upgrades need to be done at JFK and airports around the country I feel today’s airport designs in the U.S leave something to be desired. With the exception of Denver, the new terminals popping up across the country are cold, sterile centers of travel that no longer represent the excitement of travel.

Gone are the days of bold designs like Eero Saarinen’s TWA flight center, which represents a graceful butterfly spreading its wings to take flight. The Sundrome terminal now used by jetBlue at JFK was originally opened by National Airlines incorporated the design like you were outdoors with its large windows and high ceiling. All this inspiration is now gone in terminals today. Today the concern is moving people in and out as quickly as possible. Remember when getting there was half the fun, when being at an airport represented the journey before you?

Destroying a symbol of the past and a hallmark of the experience that is flight is a tragedy. I say to the board at American Airlines, cut back on some of your bonus money and save a part of your history rather then letting it end up in the Arthur Kill.

About the Author

Tom Alfano



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