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JetBlue Airways Monday broke ground for the expansion of Terminal 5 at Kennedy Airport, which will give the airline new arrival space for its international flights, and generate thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs by 2015.
“This is a big day,” said David Barger, JetBlue chief executive. “We’ll now have a single operation at Kennedy Airport.”
Currently, international travelers on JetBlue arrive at Terminal 4, and passengers with connecting flights have to transfer to Terminal 5. The new international terminal is scheduled to open in early 2015.
The construction will include 150,000 square feet of new space, two additional baggage claim areas and room for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Federal Inspection Service facility that will be able to process up to 1,200 passengers per hour, JetBlue officials said.
The groundbreaking occurred under a walkway that connects parking lots with JetBlue’s Terminal 5 — the space where the new the international terminal will be built. Officials from the airline, the Port Authority, and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol posed for photos and stuck chrome-plated shovels into a mound of dirt for the ceremonial ground breaking.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said JetBlue’s expansion helps the entire Long Island region.
“It’s 10 minutes from the Nassau border,” King said. “Many people from my district work here. It just helps the economy. Any thing good for New York helps Long Island.”
In May, the Port Authority’s board of directors approved JetBlue’s plans for a $200-million expansion at Kennedy. The authority operates Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports.
Susan Baer, the Port Authority’s director of aviation, said the legacy JetBlue and the port create with the terminal construction will benefit international travelers for decades to come.
“It’s also going to be a boost to the local economy,” Baer said, adding that the authority’s airports support 500,000 jobs, $22 billion in wages and $62 billion in sales.
Later this month, JetBlue will begin flying to new international destinations from Kennedy, including Cartagena, Colombia and Grand Cayman, Barger said. ___
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