Newark’s stunning new Terminal A is now open, but with serious Day 1 hiccups


Hours of delays, power outages and a security breach from the new Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) on Jan. 12 were not what passengers expected.

After all, this stunning, $2.7 billion facility was first unveiled in November, and the opening was delayed more than a month for additional testing and adjustments.

However, Avery Hoffman, owner of New Jersey-based Lion18 Renovations, left the new terminal incredibly unimpressed on opening day.

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“It was terrifying,” Hoffman said of his morning in the new terminal. His JetBlue flight, departing at 7:15 a.m. for Fort Lauderdale, was one of the first to depart the new facility, and his experience was fraught with problems.

Opening day hiccups

A power outage at a TSA security checkpoint halted all screening for about 20 minutes and disabled half of the checkpoint lanes for about two hours.

After two hours, after all the machines were reconnected to the main power supply, a security breach was identified, prompting an investigation by the TSA, which worsened the screening process.

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While Clear expedited lanes were open, TSA Precheck was not, sending frequent flyers to lines for several hours to clear standard security.

Hoffman finally made it through security after more than an hour, only to arrive at Gate A3 because the ground crew couldn’t figure out how to operate the new jet bridge system.

Suffice it to say, Hoffman and his family and many other frustrated travelers were eager to take off as they left New Jersey Thursday — and not just because it was a gloomy, wet winter morning.

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In the afternoon, security lines began to thin out and TSA Precheck lanes began to open around 1pm local time.

However, the situation got so bad during the day that United sent out a warning to all travelers departing from Newark, saying, “We are expecting longer-than-usual lines for security checks at Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport, and we encourage you. you have to come sooner to avoid an obstacle.”

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Despite the hiccups on opening day, the new Terminal A marks a major upgrade for an airport that some travelers have historically avoided at all costs.

Great opening party

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the local government agency that oversees and operates the region’s largest airports, invited several members of the media to Thursday’s grand opening ceremony.

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“It’s the first day at the new Terminal A and it’s been a long time in the making. We are excited to welcome customers to the new facility,” said Port Authority Chief Operating Officer Huntley Lawrence.

“There have been a number of operational tests over the last few days and sometimes you don’t catch all the bugs. There were a few issues this morning that we are dealing with,” he added.

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Some of the issues Lawrence identified were addressed before the opening, such as asking Uber and Lyft to update their maps and finding a way to direct drivers and passengers to the new facility.

Others, such as security breaches and power outages, were unexpected and passengers waited more than an hour to clear security, more than eight hours after the facility opened.

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Following the remarks, members of the media were ushered to the airfield to officially open the facility with a traditional water cannon salute for United Boeing 737-700 aircraft N38727, which landed from West Palm Beach at 10:10 a.m. local time.

Entering the new Terminal A for the first time appeared to be a big surprise for disembarking passengers – many of whom lined the windows to take pictures of the plane and door locations.

In fact, the new facility is so physically stunning that it may be enough to change Newark’s reputation.

Inside Newark’s new Terminal A

The new facility is perhaps the biggest passenger-facing upgrade yet for Newark, and it’s a big upgrade over the aging Terminal A, which officially closed with Thursday’s opening.

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The improvements start from the moment you land – a new four-lane road leads directly into the spacious new facility. The additional lanes should help ease traffic congestion plaguing the old terminal.

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Once inside, it takes a few seconds to realize just how advanced the new check-in hall is. From the soaring ceilings to the abundance of natural light to the eye-catching artwork, the new Terminal A is simply stunning.

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Various check-in experiences are available, including kiosks, counters and even new dedicated premium areas.

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Both JetBlue and United operate private check-in lobbies for premium passengers, including those with Mosaic and Premier elite status, respectively, as well as passengers flying Mint business class and United’s premium cabins.

Although security was a major bottleneck on Thursday, it is set to become significantly more efficient in the coming days.

The new terminal has 16 Transportation Security Administration checkpoint lanes, all accessible from a centralized check-in area. After clearing security (or landing) you can enter any gate without being checked again.

This is a big upgrade from the old Terminal A, which had individual security checkpoints at each gate bridge. This made connections more difficult and caused backups during the busiest departure banks.

Just to note that the security lanes have newer computed tomography or CT scanners that always take longer than the older machines.

After clearing security, you’ll be on the top floor of the central plaza with sweeping views of the departure hall.

Initially, 21 of the 33 gates of the terminal are working. The second phase of construction is expected to be completed this summer, which will include the opening of the remaining 12 gates and some additional food and beverage outlets and shops.

Currently, local New Jersey-based concessionaires such as Jersey Mike’s, Office Tavern and Grill and New Jersey Monthly are present throughout the terminal, and there is significantly more seating for passengers throughout the space.

While the physical facility is a day-and-night improvement over the existing Terminal A, perhaps the biggest improvement is the amount of natural light that makes the space more inviting.

This, combined with spacious bathrooms, a variety of seating options, local artwork, and trees and gardens spread throughout the terminal, made it a hit with travelers who seemed to enjoy the new facility.

Terminal A – which airports are there flights from?

Initially, Air Canada, American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines (select flights only) use the new Terminal A. Delta Air Lines will move into the new facility when a 12-gate expansion opens later this year.

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Of the airlines mentioned above, United is the only airline that calls Newark a hub. While most of the airline’s flights will continue to operate from the outdated Terminal C, some flights will depart and arrive at Terminal A.

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United explained that it will operate flights from Terminal A, which has the fewest connecting passengers. Although there is post-security service between Terminals A, B and C, disembarking at the new facility and then connecting to United’s Terminal C home isn’t particularly convenient.

There is currently no lounge in Terminal A, although this is set to change in the coming months. After security, Central Plaza will host three airline lounges located on the mezzanine level above concessions.

The south side of the lounge area will house the American Admirals Club and the Delta Sky Club, while the north side of the space will be dedicated to the new United Club, which will welcome eligible Air Canada and other Star Alliance flyers.

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The terminal will also feature the American Express Centurion Lounge, piano lounge, jazz-themed bar and speakeasy-themed cocktail lounge with views of Newark Harbor, New York Harbor, Newark Harbor and the Manhattan skyline. Amex also plans wellness rooms, workstations and multiple food buffets.

The Amex salon will be located in the North Concourse, which opened in the summer within the second phase of construction.

Bottom line

Newark’s new Terminal A has been in the works since 2018, ushering in a new era for an airport historically regarded as one of the worst in the country. The new $2.7 billion facility is the largest single investment in New Jersey by the Port Authority in the agency’s 101-year history.

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Although the facility faced some challenges on opening day, it is well on its way to improving Newark’s reputation. High ceilings, modernized amenities, centralized security and spacious gate areas are just some of the upgrades you’ll find in this world-class terminal.

In fact, the next time you fly out of Terminal A, you might not believe you’ve actually arrived in Newark.

The good news is that more improvements are coming to the airport, including the opening of the second phase of construction at Terminal A, as well as a larger redevelopment project that will modernize the entire airport.

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Until then, keep your fingers crossed that the security bottlenecks are ironed out and you’ll be in for a great experience traveling through Newark.

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