Palm Beach International Airport 1966-1988

The story of PBI's beautiful old terminal building.


Left: A brand new Main Terminal in 1966.  Right: The 1953 Terminal Building.

  The old Main Terminal Building at Palm Beach International Airport opened on October 29, 1966 replacing a smaller facility that dated back to March 1953.  The $4-million concrete and glass building was located on the northeast quadrant of the airport near Australian Avenue and Belvedere Road.


Sunset views of the Main Terminal.

  The two-level Main Terminal was designed to accommodate Delta, Eastern, Mackey, National and United Airlines.  Eight Boeing 727-200 airliners could simultaneously be handled by the eight gates at the rectangular-shaped concourse. 

  The Ticketing (lower) Level contained two ticket counter islands that flanked a central terminal gift shop/newsstand.  The Mezzanine Level housed the departure lounges, an Eastern Airlines Ionosphere Club and the terminal cocktail lounge/restaurant.  The Mezzanine Level was open to the Ticketing Level below giving the terminal a modern and spacious ambiance.  Escalators at the opposite ends of the building conveyed passengers between the Mezzanine and Ticketing Levels.

  Delta, National and United occupied the east side of the terminal while Eastern and Mackey Airlines were found in the west.

A Delta Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 at the Main Terminal.  Note the absence of jetways.

  During this period all aircraft boarding was done via airstairs.  Departing passengers descended to ramp-level gates by using stairs located at the individual departure lounges.  Arriving passengers bypassed the departure lounges by means of a corridor connecting the gate with the ticket lobby.


Two evocative views of the Main Terminal.  Left: The small building adjacent to the Main Terminal was one of the Baggage Claim Buildings.  Right: The Main Terminal and its National Airlines sign.   

  Baggage claim areas were located in two smaller Baggage Claim Buildings flanking the Main Terminal.  Belt-type luggage carousels and rental car facilities were featured at each building.  Outdoor arcades connected the Main Terminal to the Baggage Claim Buildings and the US Customs House.

  Wide-body service was inaugurated by National Airlines on December 15, 1971 when the carrier introduced the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 on the New York-Palm Beach route.  Eastern Airlines followed National's lead in 1972 with the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar.

  Delta Airlines moved into its own $2-million Unit Terminal in 1974.  The Delta Terminal was equipped with six gates and boasted Palm Beach International Airport's first jetways.  Baggage Claim and ticketing areas were found on the first floor and the departure lounges were situated within the level above.  A gift shop/newsstand and a snack bar were also featured at the terminal.

  Upper level jetways were installed at the Main Terminal in the mid-1970s.  Gates 1-7 (used by Eastern, National and United Airlines) were equipped with the devices and Gate 8 (used by Mackey International and Shawnee Airlines) remained a ramp-level gate.

  In 1978 (after Airline Deregulation went into effect) the Main Terminal became a very busy place when Air Florida, Braniff International, North Central, Ozark, Trans World Airlines and USAir began scheduled service to Palm Beach International Airport.  Eastern, National and United Airlines accommodated the new carriers by sharing their gates and ticket counters with them.

  In an attempt to increase capacity, United Airlines built a three-gate doglegged-shaped concourse that included a baggage claim area. 

  Pan American acquired National Airlines in January 1980 and during the next few years would scale down its Palm Beach International Airport operation.

  During the mid 1980s People Express commenced scheduled service and offered $59.00 one-way fares to its Newark hub.  The former US Customs House was converted into a two-gate terminal for the upstart carrier.  Other operators that briefly served Palm Beach International Airport during this period included New York Air, Northeastern and Presidential Airlines.


The David McCampbell Terminal and its beautifully landscaped grounds.

  Construction began on a replacement 550,000 square-foot passenger terminal during the mid 1980s.  The 25-gate David McCampbell Terminal opened in October 1988 and featured two jetway equipped concourses, three passenger levels, a concession mall and a rooftop parking garage.  The beautiful new complex could be doubled in size by expanding the Landside Terminal and adding additional concourses.        

  By the time the David McCampbell Terminal was completed American, Continental and Northwest Airlines had initiated scheduled service to Palm Beach International Airport.

  After the David McCampbell Terminal opened all airline operations were transferred there and the old terminals were abandoned.  Sadly during the early 1990s the Main Terminal, Baggage Claim Buildings and the People Express Terminal were demolished.  Only the Delta Terminal, which was being used as a storage facility, was left standing.  The building remained in non-airline use for about a decade and a half and was regrettably razed in March 2005.

The Main Terminal's dedication plaque hangs at the David McCampbell Terminal's Ticketing Level.


The Main Terminal's parking lot is employed as the Park and Ride Lot.


The Main Terminal's apron is used as a remote hardstand by Delta Airlines and other operators.

The site of the former Delta Terminal.


The Delta Terminal's airside was used as a parking lot and storage yard for airport materials and equipment.


The Delta Terminal viewed from the Park and Ride Lot.  The building was architecturally coordinated with the Main Terminal and Baggage Claim Buildings.


The curbside area of the Delta Terminal.  Note the old Delta Airlines signs.


This arcade once connected the Delta and Main Terminal (note the signs).


Close-up images of the Delta Terminal.

My Mom and her little Mazda MX-3 at the Delta Terminal.