Press Release Article


Date: May 21, 2012
Press Release Number: 73-2012

Adding new customer care agents, curtailing taxi hustling, providing more power poles and cleaner restrooms are key initiatives in overall plan to help travelers at JFK, LGA and EWR

Traveling at the Port Authority’s three busiest airports will be an easier and more pleasant experience under a wide-ranging customer-service improvement plan announced today by Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye and Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.

Mr. Foye and Mr. Baroni made the announcements during visits to LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airport today. They emphasized the agency’s commitment to the more than 106 million passengers who annually use the agency’s three major airports, which in addition to LaGuardia and Newark includes John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The enhancements will provide immediate results just as air travel starts to increase during the summer tourism season. The initiatives are a direct result of a customer survey conducted by the Port Authority of more than 10,000 air passengers who evaluated their experience.

Improvements will include the addition of new customer care agents, expanded efforts to curtail taxi hustling, the installation of more power poles for electronic devices, and cleaner restroom facilities.

“The Port Authority’s three major airports—JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia—are gateways to the world, serving over a hundred million fliers annually,” said Port Authority Chairman David Samson. “Ensuring the satisfaction of these customers is a foremost priority, and these initiatives move us closer to achieving that objective.”

“Our airports are the entry points to New York City, one of the world’s most important financial and cultural centers, and it is imperative that we provide travelers with a safe and pleasant airport experience,’’ said Vice Chairman Scott Rechler. “These efforts are excellent steps toward our goal of customer service excellence at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty.”

“I know that travelers want more amenities at New York and New Jersey’s gateway airports and the Port Authority will do its part to meet our customers’ expectations,” said Executive Director Foye. “These improvements are the start of efforts in the near- and long-term to place JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia back at the vanguard of aviation travel that they enjoyed at the start of the jet age.”

“Whether they are our neighbors here in the region or they are visiting from another part of the world, the 106 million people who use our airports annually deserve a world-class travel experience,” said Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. “These improvements we are making in the next 90 days are only a glimpse of what is to come as we work to realize that vision.”

The agency’s customer care program has been in place for more than 20 years, but starting today, the Port Authority will begin increasing the number of red-jacketed Customer Care Representatives by 20 percent during peak hours with 70 new agents. Currently, 350 customer care agents provide valuable information to help customer navigate the airport and public transportation options. They staff the airport’s welcome centers and other high-volume terminal areas like checkpoint entry and exit areas, and are easily identifiable by their red jackets. Additionally, new customer care representatives are now assisting travelers using AirTrain JFK on station platforms, including those at Federal Circle and Lefferts Boulevard.

Given the huge volumes of international travelers at JFK and Newark Liberty, the Customer Service Representatives speak a total of 27 different languages, with English and Spanish most prevalent.

To expand on the program, the Port Authority created an innovative pilot plan that will feature virtual customer care representatives. This is the first time this technology will be used at an airport in North America, and the computerized, hologram-like avatars will provide automated, basic information to travelers in LaGuardia’s Central Terminal Building, Newark Liberty’s Terminal B and JFK’s Terminal 5 when they are installed in early July.

The Port Authority’s longstanding efforts to crack down on illegal taxi hustlers now will include efforts by customer care representatives to warn travelers about these unlicensed individuals. In addition, a new expanded marketing campaign will include more than 125 anti-hustling signs on baggage belts throughout the terminals.

Travelers also will find more than 100 additional power poles to supply their electronic devices throughout the terminals at all three airports, along with cleaner restrooms, and additional food court seating. At Newark Liberty, for example, more than 100 chairs and more than 50 tables will be added to food courts in Terminals A and B to address shortages, while full-time restroom attendants have been hired at Terminal A, where facilities have not yet been modernized to meet increased demands. There also will be new digital “Next Bus” arrival time signs at Newark Liberty and more quality control visits to airport stores to ensure customers are treated fairly.

Another customer enhancement initiative being launched at Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia is a new smart phone app—a free FlySmart mobile application for the three major airports and Stewart International Airport that puts valuable real-time flight notifications onto iPhone, Android and Blackberry smart phones. The app will include listings for ground transportation and concessions, as well as maps of the terminals.

Additionally, the agency is kicking off a pilot “We Listen” campaign at LaGuardia to provide travelers with a forum to meet with management at each airport on a periodic basis to allow questions, interaction and a path to future improvements.

While these initiatives will help improve the travel experience in the near term, Port Authority officials also are focused on longer-term efforts to improve infrastructure at all three airports to meet the growing numbers of fliers expected in the coming decades.

At LaGuardia, the agency is pursuing a public-private partnership for a $3.6 billion project to replace the nearly half-century-old Central Terminal Building with a state-of-the-art 21st century terminal, with related infrastructure improvements to handle bigger planes and more travelers. The current CTB was designed to accommodate only 8 million passengers annually when it opened in 1964. Last year, the terminal handled 11.5 million passengers, a figure expected to grow to 17.5 million travelers by 2030.

At Newark Liberty, the agency is finishing a $348 million modernization of Terminal B. Plans also are in the works to issue a Request for Information to aviation industry firms by year’s end for a public-private initiative to replace outmoded Terminal A, which dates to the early 1970s.

At JFK, Delta Air Lines and the Port Authority are partnering on a $1.2 billion expansion of Terminal 4 that will take the outmoded Terminal 3 – which opened in 1960 and fares most poorly on the agency’s customer surveys – out of service. The Terminal 4 expansion project is expected to be completed in May 2013. JetBlue Airways, another of our major aviation partners at JFK, opened that hub’s most recent state-of-the-art facility in 2008, with its highly acclaimed Terminal 5.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Ron Marsico, 212-435-7777

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which does not receive tax dollars from either state, operates many of the busiest and most important transportation links in the region. This includes John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, Stewart International and Teterboro airports; AirTrain JFK and AirTrain Newark; the George Washington Bridge and Bus Station; the Lincoln and Holland tunnels; the

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