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Terminal B On Its Last Days At Bradley International Airport


April 14, 2010


It's not easy finding someone, anyone, to sing the praises of America's oldest operating airport terminal.

The Murphy Terminal at Bradley International Airport, opened in 1952 and also known as Terminal B, is a drab ghost town agentless ticket counters, frozen escalators, vacant food service spaces.

Also, the roof leaks.

"When we have pouring rain, we have waste baskets all over the terminal for the drips," said Eva Ekman, an American Airlines agent who has worked in Terminal B for nearly 29 years.

She won't need to deal with indoor rainfall much longer, and neither will any travelers: On Thursday, American the last airline operating at Murphy moves out and into freshly renovated quarters in Terminal A, on the other side of the Sheraton Hotel.

Air Canada Jazz vacated the Murphy Terminal last week.

The last flight scheduled to arrive at Murphy is American Eagle Flight 3904, due from Chicago at 6:25 p.m. today. At 6:50 p.m., the same plane departs as Flight 4148, back to Chicago.

After that, the terminal's primary occupants will be the state police, the Transportation Security Administration and a cleaning service.

Worn and lifeless, the Murphy Terminal suggests nothing of the May day in 1950 when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, attended its groundbreaking, characteristically an optimistic, hopeful event.

On Tuesday afternoon, the terminal was so quiet that the movement of forced air sounded above all else. Two agents attended the American Airlines ticket counter, at the end of the terminal. The gift shop was closed and half of its merchandise packed. There was nowhere to buy a snack on the terminal's main floor.

By now, frequent fliers seem accustomed to the terminal's barrenness, said Anna Riccio, an American ticketing agent who has worked there since 1989 and witnessed the decline. But many travelers coming through for the first time are bewildered.

"They almost think they've entered the Twilight Zone," she said Tuesday. "They're like, 'Is it operational?' And we're like, 'Yes, it is.'"

Rob Keane, a lawyer who arrived on an American flight from Chicago just before 2 p.m., offered a similar take.

"It's just odd," he said as he strolled past cracked and peeling seats along the corridor. "I was wondering where I am."

Keane, who works for an insurance company, said he had recently moved to the Hartford area and he didn't profess a long history with Bradley. He didn't need one to assert an opinion.

" Connecticut would do well to invest in its transportation infrastructure," he said.

As it happens, the airport is finishing $200 million worth of improvements, primarily to Terminal A, about a year late. American had expected to move there last November.

Long-term plans call for Murphy's demolition, but there's no date for that yet, John Wallace, an airport spokesman, said. What will replace it and when also is a mystery for the future to solve.

Riccio and her colleagues will be long gone from the terminal by then.

"I think everybody's going to be happy," she said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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