A piece in the Globe earlier this week brought to light many of the national marketplace concerns regarding the major merger of yet another legacy airline – this time American’s future as the new property of US Airways. Will fares rise with less competition? What about the need to drive innovation in things like cheap airlines and better mobile tracking and the overwhelming need to ban QR codes from airplanes?
Let’s get local, though, because there is something of a geography problem with Boston’s Logan Airport that this change also brings up: the future of Terminal B.
Terminal B is important in this discussion because, in its weird, split-in-two way, it hosts the two airlines in questions. US Airways has the west side almost entirely to itself, using all but just a handful of gates B1 through B21 (the others are shared by AirCanada, PenAir and Spirit). Another dozen and a half gates sit to the east of the parking structure, residing in a separate building of the same terminal. Most of these belong to American except for a couple* managed by Virgin Airlines.
*Before we get too far, it’s worth noting that America West, before being bought into US Airways, used to have those gates on the American side which now belong to Virgin.
The layout is about to change, thankfully, by way of two rounds of funding for Massport to connect the gates behind security, a la the change at Terminal C in recent years. The initial project was approved in 2012 for $70 million, and just last week, another $54 million was added.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the new American will getting all of that real estate. We still don’t know what impact the travel routes will have on number of flights and how many gates the airlines get to keep. Importantly, US Airways’ shuttle flights to DC and New York are key legs for them, as are connectors to their hubs in Philly, Charlotte in Phoenix. American has similar legs for Florida and Chicago. Volume may go down overall, but efficiency will hopefully be achieved to reduce gates between the consolidation.
That leaves some real estate in the new Terminal B – which looks to be going to United. I’m sure the latter would enjoy some congruence as it is currently sharing space with Delta in Terminal A and JetBlue in Terminal C.
When all is said and done, outside of a few small carriers and flights, there will fundamentally be four airlines, housed neatly, in the three domestic terminals. Parking will still be a mess, we’ll have rental cars at the airport instead of Revere, but be sure to check those signs as the airlines change hands.
But just like this pilot, I love Logan:
“If an airport has one aesthetic obligation, it’s to impart a sense of place: you are here and nowhere else.”