24 Hours in Airworld: The Airport Bar

Travel Blog  •  Rob Verger  •  06.09.09 | 8:20 PM ET

Photo by Rob Verger

Airport terminals are, by their nature, transitory places. Nearly 12 million people flew through Kennedy airport on JetBlue (the largest carrier here, measured by passenger volume) between March 2008 and March 2009, according to numbers from the Port Authority. And so I’ve often wondered: Do airport restaurants and bars have regular customers? Do they have a rhythm to them, the way other places might?

I ate lunch today at a tapas place called Pequillo here in T5, and afterwards, went and sat at the place’s bar, which is set in a cave-like space where it’s easy to forget you’re in an airport. (It advertises itself as the first tapas restaurant in an American airport.) I talked to the gracious bartender there, Kenia, regarding my question about airport bars and regulars. She was born in Honduras, and now lives in Brooklyn, and says that regulars—maybe 20 or 30 different people—come in about twice a week. “If you remember their name, and whatever they drink, it makes them feel good, I guess,” she said.

I hid out at Pequillo for a while, and chatted with Christopher Ilardi, the general manager. He pointed out an interesting fact: the chefs for some of the restaurants here get some of their fresh produce at the farmers market at Union Square on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. “You’re gonna see a great transition here,” he told me, as he described how the restaurants and bars will shut down for the night and then, not too long later, reopen again for the next day’s flights. 

At the bar, a couple from Virginia, Julie and Robert, were killing time and waiting for their flight back to Washington, D.C. I took a walk and then returned for an espresso. I talked to Tom, a retired printer who was on his way to Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker. Drinking a Stoli Orange on the rocks, he told me that he had bought a one-way ticket to Vegas—he didn’t know how long he would make it in the competition, and it was cheaper, he said, to just buy a ticket when he needed it than pay for a change fee; meanwhile, he and Michelle, a food writer who was born in Hong Kong and now lives in New York, had struck up a conversation. Her 1:30 flight to Chicago was delayed until about 7:00, she told me, and so she sat there drinking white wine.

I lingered a while, chatting. After all, it was a cozy place, and I have no plane to catch.

Rob Verger

Rob Verger is a frequent contributor to World Hum and the site's former air travel blogger. His articles and photographs have appeared in the Boston Globe and other publications, and he's a former undergraduate writing instructor at Columbia University. If you like, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on Twitter.

2 Comments for 24 Hours in Airworld: The Airport Bar

tharanga 06.09.09 | 9:03 PM ET

I’ve sat at that very bar to relax; it’s a remarkable place for an American airport.  The little cave transports you away.    Though I found the music slightly kitschy. 

I would normally avoid connecting at JFK like the plague, but T5 is so pleasant I’d actually seek it out, if I had to connect somewhere.

This is a fun little project, and I actually envy you.

Rob Verger 06.09.09 | 11:03 PM ET

Thanks, tharanga!

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