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Terminal effects

American Airlines and Massport launch a $50m overhaul of the carrier's space following upgrades to other facilities at Logan. The project will add a food court and ease connections for regional jet passengers.

Logan International Airport is Boston's latest gentrifying neighborhood.

On the heels of Delta Air Lines opening its $500 million Terminal A, a new food court in JetBlue Airways' Terminal C space, and major upgrades of the airport's parking garage, the Massachusetts Port Authority and American Airlines have kicked off a yearlong overhaul of American's Terminal B space, which first opened in 1976.

The project, whose total costs officials expect to exceed $50 million, will increase to 23 from 17 the number of restaurants and stores in the American terminal. That includes a new 15,000-square-foot, four-outlet food court set to open by next summer, built over a new Transportation Security Administration baggage-screening room.

American is the biggest carrier at Logan by passenger volume, with 95 daily outbound flights carrying roughly 25 percent of departing Boston passengers.

As soon as Monday, the project will end a chronic hassle for passengers on American's American Eagle regional jet subsidiary. On roughly 30 to 33 Eagle flights every day, American has had to take passengers by bus out to Logan's Amelia Earhart General Aviation Terminal. But by next week, all those flights -- to destinations including Baltimore, Raleigh/Durham, N.C., St. Louis, and Toronto -- will be served from the main terminal as American reconfigures operations.

By midsummer, American expects to open a new hallway that will directly connect the Eagle operation to the main American terminal. That will eliminate the need for passengers to walk through security again to make connections, and give American Eagle passengers better access to American's frequent-flier club and the improved concessions. American is expecting an added jump in Boston traffic when it begins its service to Shanghai Sunday from its Chicago hub, which gets 10 flights a day from Boston.

''Massport is extremely happy that this project is moving forward," Sal Amico, airport concessions manager at Logan, said yesterday. ''We've been aware that concessions have been lacking somewhat in the American area, really as a function of a lack of available space."

John Symonds, general manager of development for BAA Boston Inc., which is building out the restaurant and retail space under a contract with Massport, said the improved facilities will feature swirling terrazzo flooring instead of grey square tiles, shop fronts finished with warm woods and frosted glass windows, and raised 11-foot ceilings.

''I want to put this on the map, so if someone is having a cup of coffee with someone in Cincinnati or Los Angeles, they'll say, 'Hey, have you been to the new American terminal in Boston?' " Symonds said. Wood and glass will be part of a ''uniform design vocabulary" for the concession space, Symonds said, adding: ''We want to get away from the chaos of Route 1 north."

The exact lineup of which food and retail outlets will occupy the new space hasn't been determined yet, Symonds said. Tenants now include a Killian's Pub and Anthony's Pier 4, as well as Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, and Au Bon Pain.

Massport is wrapping up a decadelong, $4.4 billion airport renovation, which included new covered walkways to terminals from a central parking garage that is being expanded by 2,880 parking spaces. Airport and airline officials are now focusing on adding improved concessions, including three new food outlets that opened in the JetBlue Airways terminal space last month.

James K. Carter, American's eastern division managing director, said the airline got some valuable help in designing the upgrades last summer from a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management students who evaluated terminal operations as a summer internship.

Because the terminal is very shallow, with less than 50 feet of space between the roadway sidewalk and the ticket counter, it has been prone to congestion, especially before airport officials consolidated into a single security checkpoint last year.

The MIT students urged American to move some self-service ticket kiosks out from the ticket counter to improve passenger flow.

After making an extensive study, American agreed with the MIT students, and later this summer will move the 14 kiosks about 15 feet closer to the curb, and add five new ones for passengers who only need to get a boarding pass and aren't checking luggage.

American passengers may see some inconveniences over the next year, especially as roughly one-third of the corridor from security to gates is shut down at any given time when the new flooring is put in.

But American frequent fliers said they look forward to the upgrades. Dale Fisher, an event planner from Waltham who flies American ''all the time" through Dallas and Chicago, said today's American terminal at Logan ''is pretty below average. I would never go to lunch or dinner or grab meals there now. But if there were a lot of good new options for healthy food before I'm getting on a six-hour flight, I'd probably take advantage of it."

Peter J. Howe can be reached at howe@globe.com.

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