Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of Southwest’s service at Newark Liberty International Airport. Inaugural service festivities are always a lot of fun, with tons of excitement, celebration, and SWA Spirit, and this one was no different! To get up to Newark for the fun, I was one of over 100 Southwest Employees who rode aboard the “ferry flight,” a non-revenue, nonstop flight from Dallas Love Field to Newark to position an aircraft to begin our new service on Sunday, March27. As we cruised from Texas to New Jersey, I did some reminiscing of my very first commercial flight—also a nonstop from Dallas Love to Newark. It, too, was aboard a Boeing jet—only instead of a 737-700, my trip in 1964 was aboard an American Airlines 707. Our departure in 2011 from Love Field was not extremely different than mine in 1964—last weekend, we departed from Love Field’s Gate 1, and back in 1964, American was operating from almost the exact same location in the then brand-new terminal.
However, today’s Newark Airport is a vastly different animal than what my family and I encountered when we arrived in 1964. Newark Liberty in 2011 is a bustling, airy facility with multiple terminals linked by an elevated train which also provides great, quick access to commuter rail service to Penn Station in Manhattan, as well as Amtrak’s entire Northeast train grid. Newark Airport in 1964 was a single-level, dingy, relatively unpopular facility with minimal amenities and no “modern” conveniences (such as jetbridges!). I remember climbing down air stairs in the snow when we arrived, slipping and sliding across the icy ramp towards the terminal, and nearly getting blown over by the prop wash from a passing propeller plane. (Remember, I was much younger—and lighter—then!)
These pictures from 1962 and 1964 (supplied by the Port Authority of NY/NJ) show how relatively small and antiquated the airport was back in the early days of the Jet Era. It also illustrates what Newark Airport’s primary role was back then, which was for the most part short-haul regional service operated by propeller planes.