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Terminals Only Part of the Solution for Kennedy

Whereas American built a spectacular monument, JetBlue wants innovation. Inside its secure area, the JetBlue terminal will feature a five-foot high grandstand-like structure with tiered steps for tables and seating.

Besides improving the airport experience, both new facilities will allow for more passengers. JetBlue, which carried 27.3 million Kennedy passengers in 2006, expects it can move 40 million passengers through 26 gates. American, which carried 19.8 million passengers, says it can handle 25.5 million.

Delta (DAL - Get Report), the third-biggest Kennedy carrier, with 15.9 million passengers last year, is growing too. President Ed Bastian said on a March conference call that Delta will spend money to improve its aging facilities in the former Pan American terminal, though he did not specify an amount.

Overall, Kennedy expects 45 million passengers this year, up from 32.8 million in 2000. Already, aviation consultant Robert Mann says, the three principal carriers "are managing to gridlock each other to death."

In an interview, JetBlue CEO Dave Barger says the immediate solution is for the FAA to reimpose slots at Kennedy, restricting the number of flights each carrier can fly. Arpey says the fastest growing carriers -- he did not specify names, but seemed to refer to Delta and JetBlue -- ought to negotiate flight reductions, just as American and United (UAUA) did at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in 2004.

"Capacity restraints, if done properly, are realistic in the short run," Arpey said. Long-term, he said, an air traffic control upgrade is the only possible solution. "No one is going to be happy just simply constraining capacity," he said. "We need more infrastructure in the air."

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