This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

Fifty Years Ago, Idlewild Airport Became JFK

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Fifty years ago on Tuesday, one of the most commonly used words in New York suddenly began to disappear.

The word was "Idlewild," and it was the name of New York's international airport. On Dec. 24, 1963, the airport's name was changed to John F. Kennedy International Airport, commemorating a young president who had been assassinated just a month earlier.

At an airport ceremony on Dec. 24, 1963, the 800 guests included JKennedy's brother Ted and sister Jean Kennedy Smith. Then-New York Mayor Robert Wagner, in his unique style, said the purpose of the gathering was to honor a man who was "a brilliant practioner of intercommunication, a young sage of understanding and a tireless searcher for peace."

The airport renaming provided a rare honor that enables the former president's name to be recalled hundreds of thousands of times each day in conversations throughout the world.

In the ensuing years, air travel, particularly international air travel, surged, even as the world's greatest international airline, JFK-focused Pan American World Airways, disappeared. In 2013, its terminal finally disappeared too as Delta (DAL), which had become the primary international carrier at JFK, moved to new quarters.

In the next few days, JFK's annual passenger total is poised to reach 50 million for the first time. In 2012, the airport handled 49,292,733 passengers, making it the 13th busiest airport in the world and the sixth busiest in the U.S. JFK is also the No. 1 U.S. international gateway. Nearly half of its passengers are international passengers.

Three U.S. carriers have contributed to JFK's growth, partially by opening beautiful new terminals.

Delta opened its new, $1.4 billion John F. Kennedy terminal in May, Delta in 1991 acquired major pieces of Pan Am including its Boston-New York-Washington shuttle, its 34 international routes from JFK and Terminal 3, decrepit even then. Delta stayed in Terminal 3 for 22 years before moving to Terminal 4.

American (AAL) opened its terminal, which cost $1.3 billion, in August 2007. And JetBlue (JBLU) opened an $800 million terminal in 2008.

JetBlue has probably been the biggest factor in JFK's resurgence as a major airport. The JetBlue story begins with visionary David Neeleman's perception that the airport should not have been given up for dead after Pan Am's demise. Neeleman designed a unique airline, one that offers premium service but not premium pricing. As aviation consultant Mike Boyd memorably said, "JetBlue does not have passengers. It has groupies."

Neeleman spoke at a September luncheon, sponsored by the JFK International Airport Chamber of Commerce, that celebrated the airport's 50th year.

Airport construction began in 1942 on the Idlewild Golf Course. Initial plans called for only 1,000 acres to relieve the overcrowded LaGuardia Airport, according to research done by the chamber, but by completion the airport had grown to five times that size. Idlewild opened in 1948.

Rudy Auslander, executive director of the JFK chamber, said the airport "was the first organization to be named in honor of Kennedy."

"Today, airlines from every continent except for Antarctica serve JFK (which) has always been a gateway to the world," Auslander said in an interview. When JetBlue began "it became New York's hometown carrier," and provided JFK with the domestic hub it had long lacked, he said.

Aviation consultant Bob Mann said the name Idlewild can still be found in some spots at the airport. Mann once worked for Tower Air, another defunct former airport occupant.

"Go to some of older parts of the airport -- the names New York Port Authority and Idlewild Airport are on the cast iron covers over the subterranean electrical service infrastructure," Mann said. "The Pan Am maintenance hangars and the Pan Am catering facility are still there too, now essentially abandoned."

Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

To contact this writer,
click here.

Follow @tedreednc

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 17,279.74 +13.75 0.08%
S&P 500 2,010.40 -0.96 -0.05%
NASDAQ 4,579.7890 -13.6380 -0.30%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs