New JFK Terminal Six Passes $2.3 Billion in Contracts for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

US Representative Gregory Meeks speaks about the important to private and public partnerships. Credit: Jean Brannum

By Jean Brannum |

On the walk from the Air Train to Terminal Five, visitors at JFK Airport can get a glimpse of the upcoming new Terminal Six. At this point, you won’t see or hear much except a steady banging sound and a dusty construction sight surrounded by a chain-link fence.

But in Building 111, a crowd of business executives, investors, and community leaders celebrated the $2.3 billion in contracts for Minority-and-Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) that are part of the new Terminal Six and the progress on construction. This project is one of five to create a new and improved JFK Airport

The Port Authority surpassed its goal of 30 percent of participating businesses being MWBEs, beating LaGuardia Airport for most MWBEs in an airport. At this point, more than 200 local businesses are part of the project to build a better terminal. 

There are upcoming opportunities for local businesses to sell their products in the new terminal. This summer, three retail or pre-packaged food businesses will have the opportunity to sell their products in the 60,000-square-foot shopping facility to open in 2026. There will be two more spots to open in 2028 as part of phase two. Many of the already-confirmed businesses are local and will be announced later, according to Steven Thody, interim CEO of JFK Millennium Partners (JMP). 

Thody said that the new terminal should give visitors, whether they are coming to the city or passing through, a taste of New York City culture. He was previously part of the revamp of Terminal B at LaGuardia, which was the first terminal in North America awarded five stars by Skytrax.

“We want people to feel like they are in New York City here,” Thody said in a separate interview.

The building of the terminal has been an effort of private companies, the Port Authority, residents of southeast Queens, and community leaders, including Congressmen Gregory Meeks and Queens Borough President Donovon Richards Jr. 

In his speech, Meeks highlighted the importance of private and public partnerships, saying that tasks are completed when the government works with corporations. 

Community leaders and company representatives gathered to celebrate the progress on the new Terminal Six at JFK. Credit: Jean Brannum

“Building a new airport from the ground up is a team sport, and we would not be here today without our terminal developers, without our strong partnerships with a multitude of private companies,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton recognizing the multiple elected officials and company executives standing next to him.

Residents near the airport deal with constant plane noise and traffic, the borough president said. Members of the community contributed to the terminal project, many of them crowding the room in Building 111. 

A terminal of technological and sustainable development

Thody said the terminal will be equipped with the latest technology to improve passenger experience, including AI. Terminal six will use AI to provide insight into everything from concessions to security, then use that information to improve efficiency and avoid slowdowns caused by a high passenger volume.

Technology will decrease energy use by improving automation in baggage handling. Conveyer belts that used to continuously run to funnel bags between checkpoints, will now only run when sensors recognize a bag needing transport. 

The terminal will also use solar power to decrease its carbon footprint. This project is not related to the recently-announced solar panel canopy that covers the parking lots, but there will be 6,000 solar panels powering Terminal Six. The thirty oval-shaped skylights bring much-needed natural light to the inside of the building, which cuts down the need for electrical light. The skylights will be coated in a film that keeps heat from the sun out as well to reduce the need for air conditioning in the warmer months.  JMP is pursuing several sustainability certificates, including LEED certification. 

The first resident airline will be the Lufthansa group, which includes Swiss International Airlines, Austrian Airlines, and Brussels Airlines. More airlines are to be announced soon. The new terminal is set to open with ten gates total. The first five gates will open in 2026.