How New York JFK Coordinates Arrivals and Departures for World Leaders

Probably no airport handles as many tarmac transfers by car in a day as Frankfurt, where all passengers in Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal are chauffeured to their aircraft in a Mercedes or Porsche.

Munich handles fewer transfers by car, but it’s a regular occurrence as first class passengers arriving and departing from an apron position are shuttled by vehicle.

Here in the U.S. United and Delta now offer limited tarmac transfer programs.

But New York probably sees the most complicated airport operations — tarmac receptions combined with constantly changing plans and complicated security arrangements — when world leaders descend upon the city for a U.N. General Assembly meeting.

The New York Times carries a nice piece telling some of the colorful stories involved in managing the VIP airport process at New York’s JFK.

The Czech prime minister required eight cars to pick him up planeside. No one but the U.S. President and Vice President get airspace closed down for their movements. World leaders really like to shop.

On bureaucratic turf involved:

On the grounds of the airport, each motorcade was led by a Port Authority Police Department cruiser followed by one from the New York Police Department. The city police lead the motorcades to and from Manhattan, but the grounds of the airport fall within the jurisdiction of the Port Authority police.

“It’s our house,” said Lt. Thomas Lomonaco, as he stood in the command center that the Port Authority had set up in a vacant building on the airport’s edge.

Like a carefully arranged diplomatic setting, airport turf determines seating in the command center.

As the host agency, the Port Authority police sat at the head of the U-shaped array of desks surrounding a large screen that displayed the schedule of the day’s arrivals and departures.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really didn’t trust U.S. airspace.

When Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the General Assembly, he would have the pilots turn off their plane’s transponder as it approached the airport, causing it to disappear from the screen used in the command center to track aircraft, Lieutenant Lomonaco said. Or his plane would veer north away from the city “trying to be a little evasive” before landing, he added.

Me, I will just miss American’s Flagship lounge when departing JFK after I no longer have British Airways Gold status.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary,
    Can I use my ba gold to get into any flagship lounge even when flying aa domestic? Also do I need to put my ba gold number into my aa reservation? Thanks

  2. Dear gary, are you familiar with citi thankyou program. I have a thankyou preferred card and have acumulate over 100k points and never use it. I just got approved a citi prestige card. Since i am new to this program, I have some questions:
    1. If I want to book W or above of united on thankyou travel, I can’t book it online, right? Is there any telephone number of thankyou travel I can use to book that kind of ticket? If so, is there fee associated with it?
    2. Can I use thankyou points book refundable ticket on UA, and cancel it get refund. UA will give me a TVCA travel certificate, is that right?
    Thank you in advance!

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