Aviation News

October 20, 2014

The USO Welcomes Traveling Servicemembers Through New York

For many years, the options for a servicemember to relax in a lounge before or after a flight through the New York City airports were extremely limited. However, on September 17, 2014, that all changed for those soldiers traveling through John F. Kennedy International Airport. That day saw the opening of the United Service Organization (USO) Center at JetBlue’s Terminal 5. This brand new USO Center is the first to be opened at a New York City-area airport.

20141013-IMG_2824The USO Center at Terminal 5 is located outside of security on the arrivals level of Terminal 5. This location makes it accessible to all soldiers travelling through the airport, not just to those travelling on JetBlue. The center is staffed by a team of volunteers and is open daily from 5:00 am until 11:00 pm. Due to the limited space inside, admission to the Center is officially limited to soldiers in transit. However, given the desire of the USO serve all soldiers, they try to accommodate everybody if they can. That means that during busier times, servicemembers not traveling on official business may be asked to grab a snack and a drink ‘to go.’

USO Main RoomRecently, we had a chance to tour the Center at JFK. While it isn’t a large space, it has plenty of options inside for the travelling soldier. The space is fairly long but relatively narrow, being situated along the outside wall between doors to the pickup area outside. Jet Blue has bmade excellent use of this space on both the arrivals level and departures level. In addition to the USO Center, similar spaces house a Dunkin Donuts, information booths, and a bar.

Upon entering, there is a small check-in area equipped with iPads, behind which is a desk area for the volunteers. This area adjoins seating area that occupies roughly half of the Center’s available space. Down the middle is a row of tables and chairs, while along the frosted windows to the outside of the terminal is a long counter lined with iMac computers. Over near the check-in desk is a self-service coffee station, as well as dispensers for snacks such as M&Ms, trail mix, and nuts. At the opposite end, a pair of flat screen monitors are built in to the wall. These display the gate information for flights departing all terminals at the airport, not just Terminal 5.

Moving towards the rear of the Center is a small lounge area. This area has more comfortable chairs for lounging, as well as a couple of TV screens displaying live television programming. On another wall is the game center. Games of both the video and board variety are available to play. Completing the lounge section are another pair of departure information screens.

On the day that we visited, the USO Center at JFK was staffed by a pair of very pleasant volunteers, Sylvia Ramadhin and Aloma Qualls. Ms. Qualls explained that she is also a Travelers Aid volunteer at JFK. In that role, she would often be asked by travelling soldiers if there was a Center or another place that they could relax. Prior to the Center’s opening, the only option at the airport was for them to visit the American Airlines Admirals Club in Terminal 8. The problem with that lounge was that it is located inside security. That means that the soldier would need to be travelling on American Airlines or another airline departing from Terminal 8. Now that the Center is open, it provides a space that is accessible to all regardless of which airline they are flying.

How to get there: The USO Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport is open to all servicemen and servicewomen travelling as part of their military duties. It is located on the arrivals level of Terminal 5, across from baggage carousel 3. From the other terminals, take the AirTrain to the Terminal 5 stop. Walk down the sky bridge towards to terminal and then take the escalator or elevator down 2 levels to the arrivals level, and then walk towards the far end of that level. The USO Center is located between baggage carousel 3 and the revolving doors to the street.

Ben Granucci, Associate Editor, is an aviation enthusiast and plane spotter based in New York City. Growing up in Connecticut, he has had his eyes toward the sky for as long as he can remember. He can be reached on Twitter at @BLGranucci or through his blog at Landing-Lights.com.

About the Author

Ben Granucci
Ben Granucci, Senior Editor, is an aviation enthusiast and plane spotter based in New York City. Growing up in Connecticut, he has had his eyes toward the sky for as long as he can remember. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.



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