PHL opens a redesigned Terminal B, with new restaurants and iPads at the passenger gates

Among a few of the thousands of Terminal B’s newly-installed iPads, Mayor Kenney (right) talks with Rick Blatstein, OTG founder and CEO, before Monday’s ribbon cutting at PHL.

Passengers catching flights Monday in Terminal B at Philadelphia International Airport could sample spicy tuna and veggie rolls, Philly cheesesteak bites, and tomato bruschetta crostini to mark the official opening of the renovation of one of PHL’s busiest terminals, home to American Airlines, which operates 390 daily flights here.

The $30 million redesign, with 1,000 iPads in the gate areas and a half-dozen new restaurants, was begun 18 months ago by New York-based food and beverage provider OTG Management, with partner American Airlines, and the airport.

Mayor Kenney cut the ribbon on the newly renovated terminal and cited PHL as an asset for a potential Amazon second headquarters, boasting Philadelphia’s geographic location and PHL’s global connectivity, with flights to 35 international destinations.

“The airport is key to the economic success of this city and this region,” Kenney said. “It only becomes more clear as we prepare the Amazon deal. This facility is front and center of our attractions that we are touting.”

Terminal B’s redesign covers 60,000 square feet inside security — you need a plane ticket to get in. It was funded primarily by OTG, which has built restaurants in gate areas and installed iPad technology in 10 airports, including New York’s LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy, and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty.

“When I got into this business, I always looked forward to the day I could come back to reinvent my hometown airport at this scale,” said Rick Blatstein, OTG founder and chief executive officer. “Today, that dream becomes a reality.”

As air travel has become more stressful, with long security lines, cramped airplane seats, and extra fees, the aim is to make the experience on the ground more pleasant.

With iPads at most seats in the terminal, passengers can get flight updates, browse the Web, play games, and order food and drinks that can be delivered right to them.

“Terminal B reflects the spirit and tastes of our great city, and I know our passengers will enjoy spending time here,” said Philadelphia International’s CEO, Chellie Cameron.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Passengers wait for their flights among the 1,000 iPads in the gate areas.

At airports that have iPads and restaurants in gate areas, revenue per enplanement (that is, for each passenger getting on a plane) is 50 percent higher than the average for the top 50 airports in North America, Blatstein said.

Seven Philadelphia chefs were consultants to the redesign, creating menus and recipes, sourcing local food, even recommending staff. The eateries will be run by OTG’s culinary group.

Kevin Sbraga, a winner of reality-TV competition Top Chef and owner of the former Sbraga on Broad Street, will lend his name to Independence Prime, a steak and chop house that will open in March.

Nicholas Elmi, another Top Chef winner, who owns Laurel on East Passyunk Avenue, lent expertise to a Mediterranean cafe called BabaBar.

Erin O’Shea, former chef and partner at Percy Street Barbecue on South Street, helped with the concept for Love Grille, featuring “comfort food” and Philly favorites.

Hiroyuki “Zama” Tanaka, owner of Zama on South 19th Street near Rittenhouse Square, has agreed to help create a Japanese ramen and sushi restaurant called Noobar to open in November.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Travelers in Philadelphia International Airport stroll past the Germantown Biergarten, one of Terminal B’s new offerings.

Boule Cafe is a bakery-style cafe that was designed by Anne Coll, executive chef at the Whip Tavern in Coatesville.

Joe Cicala, executive chef at Le Virtù on East Passyunk, upgraded and expanded the menu at Cibo Bistro & Wine Bar.

The OTG culinary staff created Germantown Biergarten, a beer-and-brat garden that aims to have a vibe of the city’s Germantown neighborhood.

Stalin Bedon, who began Nomad Pizza in a food truck and now has three sit-down restaurants, helped create Mezzogiorno, featuring fresh Neapolitan pizza and other Italian food.