Three sets of moving walkways in the JetBlue terminal at Kennedy Airport have been out of order for months, perhaps longer, and the Port Authority has a solution — give them back to the airline so it can fix them.
The Port Authority board is scheduled to vote on a resolution Thursday that would return the walkways to JetBlue and reimburse the airline up to $4 million to repair them and an annual rent reduction of $660,000 to maintain them.
The walkways were built by the airline during its 2008 modernization of the terminal and turned over to the authority that year as part of the airline’s contract with the agency.
The Port Authority offered no explanation during the past two days for why the walkways did not work, but the board resolution suggested JetBlue had a better chance than the PA of fixing them.
“JetBlue has the ability to order the parts and quickly hire a contractor to perform the rehabilitation of the six moving sidewalks,” the board paperwork said. “This would shorten the impact on JetBlue’s operations and quickly improve customer service levels.”
During a walk-through the Skyway on Tuesday, six-seat electric carts were ferrying people several hundred yards along the route of the inoperative walkways.
“You guys want a ride over? It’s a long walk over?” a cart driver asked four people coming into the terminal from the taxicab waiting area. They climbed aboard and zipped off to the check-in area.
JetBlue workers with wheelchairs were also standing nearby to help those in need. The airline said it has been providing the cart and wheelchair service since spring, but several social media posts have complained of nonworking walkways since last Thanksgiving.
One other set of moving walkways, between the taxicab area and the parking garage entrance, are still in operation and will remain with the Port Authority.
Along the inoperative walkways were signs, in Spanish and English, reading: “Pardon the inconvenience while we repair the moving sidewalk.” But there was no indication that any repair work was being done.
The airline said in a statement that it had invested millions of dollars in recent years to make Terminal 5 more attractive by providing a variety of food and beverage options, opening the rooftop to customers and even adding a potato garden.
“The lengthy outage of the moving walkways is not consistent with the customer experience we offer at T5,” the statement said. “We are hopeful the Port Authority board will approve the proposal that allows JetBlue to take on the repair and ongoing maintenance of the walkways for our customers and crew members.”