The press junket to showcase British Airways’ $30 million renovation of Terminal 7 in JFK began at 10 a.m. in Bryant Park with a chartered bus.
At the terminal, reporters were greeted solicitously by British-accented airline staff, but didn’t get to skip going through security. Turnout was good: The Associated Press, the BBC, the New York Post, Agence France-Presse, CNBC, the Financial Times, and assorted others, including Golf for Women. (The English are big golfers, the executive editor explained.)
After 45 minutes of mulling about and sipping breakfast-y beverages came the press conference. The 18-month renovation would be to enhance what British Airways C.E.O. Willie Walsh referred to as the company’s “premium ground product.” The airline is seeking LEED certification for the terminal.
Images of the planned Terminal 7 redesign flashed on flat-screen TVs nearby: modernist furniture, clean lines and general sleekness seemed to be the prevailing theme.
The “break-out sessions” included a tour of the newer retail features in the terminal, including Tumi, Brookstone, and the Sapphire Lounge (decorated in deep blue, courtesy of Bombay Sapphire Gin). A free massage was offered at the Elemis Spa.
During the massages, Moreton Binn, the CEO of XpresSpa – the speeded up version of Elemi — dropped by “to check out the competition” and say hi to Steve Clark, British Airways’ senior vice president for customer services in the Americas, who was leading the retail tour.
“It’s the only place you’ll find where money is less important than time,” Mr. Binn said, explaining the need for readily available, if pricey, goods and services.
During the tour, a bagpipe player in full plaid regalia played. He would not be a regular fixture at the terminal, Mr. Clark said. “We brought him in for today,” he said, then, lowering his voice, “I like bagpipe music – in small doses.”
Lunch was at Bonfire, the terminal’s sit-down, upscale flagship restaurant, created by celebrity chef and restaurateur Todd English (also of People’s Most Beautiful People fame). The restaurant was offering elaborate finger foods, including lobster in a mini tortilla, flank steak kabobs and mini pigs in blankets with chorizo.
With Bonfire, Mr. English said, he aims to recreate the kind of dining experience you can get in any major city – just in an airport. It’s also an attempt to recreate some of the lost glamour that used to be part of air travel.
“I remember when I first started traveling it was dress up, tie. It was a big deal,” he said. “And obviously we’ve gotten away from that. It’s become sort of like the bus terminal.”
On the way out came the swag – three bags of it. The freebies included Yves St. Laurent’s L’Homme cufflinks, Godiva chocolates, Bacardi playing cards in a leather case, and a mysterious charm bracelet with a pair of mini handcuffs dangling from it.
Then it was back to Bryant Park on the chartered bus, and back to the office to file a story.