On my way out to the west coast earlier this month, I had the opportunity to check out some of the new dining establishments and outlets in the recently remodeled Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). While reviews of the changes thus far have been quite harsh, especially on forum sites like Flyertalk, I was still interested in experiencing the new look for myself. Due to the fact that my flight to Los Angeles (LAX) left so early in the morning, I did not actually eat at any of the new restaurants or bars (nothing was open at 3:30 a.m.). However, I did get the impression that much of the decor was meant to be modern and more in line with a hip, boutique eatery that one might find in New York City or Las Vegas.
Only one of the security checkpoints at Terminal C was open when I cleared through the TSA screening area. Although security lines can become excruciatingly long at Newark, at that time in the morning hardly anyone was in line. PreCheck was not available, although TSA agents handed out “expedited screening cards” to anyone with the PreCheck logo on their boarding passes. Because I have a Global Entry membership, I also have PreCheck clearance and thus received one of these cards. I still had to remove my laptop from my bag to pass through the x-ray machine, but I did not have to remove my shoes and could pass through a metal detector instead of the full body scan machine.
My first impression of the redesigned terminal was that some of the restaurants were attempting to model themselves after the smaller, designer hotels that have sprouted up in major cities these days. Hip places like the Cromwell in Las Vegas came to mind when I looked at the fine dining restaurant’s (Abruzzo Italian Steakhouse) decor or the lounge (CBGB L.A.B) near the far end of the concourse. Of course, without actually having the opportunity to sample the food, I cannot comment on the quality of the fare offered. However, it seemed as though most of the bars and lounges had a variety of beers, wines, and liquors available for consumption.
Overall, I was impressed by the refreshed interior of the terminal. The old establishments definitely looked worn by the time they expired or were replaced in 2014 and 2015. Another nice touch is the fact that you can order food, beverages, and other things directly from your table, as most restaurants are equipped with tablets loaded with menus and devices to swipe your credit card. I know many people still prefer to interact with wait or serving staff, and I can definitely appreciate that. One of the reasons many people go out to eat is to socialize and be served in a nice environment. At the airport, however, convenience and efficiency often win out over a luxurious dining experience (of course, it is yet to be seen whether the new ordering process is actually more efficient or quicker).
Only time will tell if the new changes to Terminal C will last or be successful. Decor, atmosphere, and appearance only account for so much. Quality of food, quality of service, and consistency are still much more important (and telling) factors for restaurants in the long term. OTG has certainly brought in new ideas. The question is whether they can deliver now and well into the future. For United Airlines passengers who are captive to Newark International Airport, not having other options can be a good or bad thing, depending on how appealing those options are to them.
Hopefully, these will be changes we all will like… and not just smokescreens to mask cuts in quality or service. After all, for those who have been burned concerning promised changes over the past six years, it will take more than a simple remodel to earn their trust again.
As for me, I was happy to just be on my way to the west coast and other adventures in life. I missed out on a VBD (voluntarily denied boarding) chance that morning that would have netted me a $500 travel voucher, $20 breakfast voucher, and more, but that is just the way things happen sometimes. My Premium Service flight was fantastic, and so was everything else that day.
Onward and upward. Nothing to complain about here!
Stay tuned for more reports from LAX, Las Vegas, and other areas of Nevada and California.