Terminal velocity
By Oliver Ryan

(FORTUNE Magazine) – You might imagine that soaring fuel costs, vicious fare wars, and the specter of bankruptcy would discourage a major airline from making any major architectural statements. Not American Airlines: The carrier is underwriting huge airport expansions in Miami and Dallas, and in late July unveiled its very own new $1.1 billion, 1.5-million-square-foot terminal at New York's J.F.K. Economics aside, does the terminal make air travel fun again? Not exactly. Efficiency drove this upgrade; 24 self-service kiosks now greet the luggage-free, while passengers can check bags via 101 conveyor-belted stations that feed into superfast "inline" bomb scanners. Then comes a ten-lane security gantlet that can process 1,800 passengers an hour and leads to 36 gates. As for charm? There's a festive mural on the lower level by Haitian-born painter Jean-Claude Legagneur, and the Admirals Club has NYC manhole covers in the shower hall. So at least this airline is striving to avoid artistic bankruptcy. -- Oliver Ryan