JetBlue's Growth Prods Creation of Food Court at Boston Airport

At Boston's Logan International Airport, JetBlue Airways Corp. isn't just stimulating demand for low-fare travel to New York, Washington, and the West Coast.

It's also stimulating appetites for cheeseburgers, pizza, and caramel Frappuccinos.

Responding to JetBlue's fast growth in Logan's Terminal C, the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan, is set to open a new $ 3.5 million food court past the security lines near the JetBlue gates next Tuesday. It will include a Johnny Rockets hamburger stand with diner-style counter seating; a Wolfgang Puck's bar, restaurant, and pizza/sandwich takeout counter; and a Starbucks coffee shop.

Massport business general manager Jack Hemphill said growing passenger levels at JetBlue's Logan operations helped cinch the deal. "We saw that there was obviously a demand for this beyond security," Hemphill said in an interview. Currently, food options past security consist of a Samuel Adams pub, a small Dunkin' Donuts, and a handful of carts.

Since moving into the former Delta space last May, JetBlue has grown to 40 daily departures out of Logan, including nine roundtrips to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The airline expects to reach 50 daily departures by April. JetBlue now flies to 13 nonstop destinations from Logan and in the last month added new service to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C.; Austin, Tex.; and Nassau, Bahamas; and will launch Boston-Richmond, Va. service in April.

JetBlue and Massport have signed a contract for JetBlue to take over 11 of the gates Delta vacated in Terminal C by November 2008. Last month, JetBlue took over a seventh gate, eight months earlier than originally scheduled, to accommodate passenger growth.

JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin said airline officials are "very happy that JetBlue's customers at Boston will have quality restaurants and vendors to choose from at Logan's Terminal C [and] really appreciate the great airport experience as much as their JetBlue flight."

The food court will also serve passengers using Cape Air, which flies to Hyannis, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Provincetown; and Midwest Airlines, which flies to Milwaukee and Kansas City.

In a December customer survey, Hemphill said, Massport found that 43 percent of Logan customers now buy food at the airport to take on their flights. That was up from just 10 percent during 2000 and 2001. Most airlines, trying to avoid or dig out of bankruptcy, have cut way back on in-flight food for all but cross-country and international flights since travel demand plummeted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the stricter security procedures they spurred.

Many passengers said they like the convenience of buying meals after they have gone through security, rather than having to carry food and drinks through the checkpoint. But Hemphill said Massport has done surveys that get down to even examining what food wrappers and trash come off airplanes, and officials have found passengers are happy to use food outlets on either side of security.

Hemphill said Massport plans a major overhaul of the food court outside security in Terminal C, which now includes a Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, and other vendors, and is looking into building more food outlets on the American Airlines side of Terminal B.

The Logan location will be the fourth in the state for Johnny Rockets, a 1950s-diner-themed chain that offers hamburgers and malted milkshakes and has outlets at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree, Burlington Mall, Natick Mall, and Northshore Mall in Peabody.

Wolfgang Puck, whose menus include thin-crusted pizza, sandwiches, and salads, operates restaurants, cafes and "express outlets" around the country, according to a company website. The company also operates the food court at Boston's Museum of Science. Starbucks has more than 10,500 shops worldwide, including three in Logan's Terminal B.

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