Boston Logan International Airport (KBOS) – Boston, MA

I flew out of Boston for the first time at the age of 9. We went on a family vacation to Sanibel Island, FL, flying BOS-DCA-RSW and then the reverse on U.S. Airways. I truly can’t remember aircraft what we flew on — it was before I understood the difference between regional carriers, mainline domestic service, and long-haul. At that point, every plane looked pretty much the same to me. Regardless, I thought Logan was a nice airport at first glance, although I can’t say that I was very engaged in observing the airport on that particular trip.

Just under four years later, in the fall of 2004, I came to Logan again with my father, this time to go to England. We flew BOS-LHR and back on a British Airways 777-200, and I got my first experience with an aircraft that bore the designation “heavy.” I remember being in Terminal E in the early morning and seeing the distinguished walls cloaked in elegant wood, but my recollection from that trip was limited.

It would be 10 years before I returned to Logan — in the summer of 2014 — to take a one-way U.S. Airways E-190 flight to Philadelphia, before returning on the train. Two weeks later, after I had officially moved into my apartment, I flew to and from Newark on a jetBlue E-190, which was my first experience with the low-cost carrier. While those trips certainly re-acquainted me with Logan, it was that fall when I truly felt like Logan was my “home” airport for the first time, as I flew from Boston to London Heathrow and back on a British Airways 747-400.

Since the aforementioned trip, I’ve flown out of Logan four times — to Chicago O’Hare, Newark, New York JFK, and Washington Reagan on Spirit Airlines, jetBlue, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines respectively, meaning that the only mainline U.S. carrier I haven’t flown on is United Airlines. And with each trip, I’ve become more and more familiar with “BOS,” as it’s known by pilots.

The Runways

Logan — officially General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport — is located partially in the East Boston section of Boston, and partially in Winthrop. It has six runways, which are profiled below:

  • 15R/33L – 10,083 feet
  • 4R/22L – 10,005 feet
  • 4L/22R – 7,861 feet
  • 9/27 – 7,001 feet
  • 14/32 – 5,000 feet
  • 15L/33R – 2,557 feet

If you’re wondering how Logan — or indeed any airport — numbers its runways, here’s the answer: it’s done according to the runway’s approximate magnetic heading divided by 10. So, for example, 9/27 runs east/west — 9 is at a heading of 92 degrees, while 27 is at a heading of 272 degrees. Divide both of those individually by 10, and you get 9 and 27.

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Logan has six different runways, of which 4R/22L and 15R/33L are the longest. (Massport)

Of those six, the three most used runways are 4R/22L, 9/27, and 15R/33L, a lot of which has to do with the fact that all five of Logan’s ILS approaches are on those runways, making them suitable for landings as well as takeoffs. Regardless of the wind, one of 4R/22L, 9/27, or 15R/33L will always be active at Logan.

With that said, Logan will — 99 percent of the time — be utilizing 9/27 in tandem with another runway. Often times, operations will go like this:

  • NW winds – Arrivals and departures from 27 & 33L
  • SW winds – Arrivals and departures from 22L & 27
  • SE winds – Arrivals to 15R, departures from 9 & 15R
  • NE winds – Arrivals to 4R & 4L (visual), departures from 4R & 9

In these flow configurations, there are certain caveats:

  • While the SE flow configuration dictates arrivals to 15R, Logan rarely uses 15R for arrivals, as it takes aircraft low over crowded neighborhoods and has an offset localizer. In many cases when there are SE winds, Logan will have aircraft arrive 22L instead, although I have seen 15R arrivals on occasion coming over my house at around 1,500 feet*.
  • In each configuration, widebody or “heavy” aircraft (those with an MTOW of 300,000+ lbs.) will generally arrive or depart from either 4R/22L or 15R/33L rather than 9/27. That said, there are times where a 747 will arrive on 27 or depart 9, but those occasions are rare.
  • Aircraft can arrive 4L (visual approach) but cannot depart 4L due to noise restrictions. Conversely, aircraft can depart 9, but they cannot arrive on 9. This is because the buildings in the Financial District are too tall to clear.

The Terminals

Conventional logic would dictate that Logan has five terminals, given that they are labeled A through E. However, there are in fact only four terminals in Boston — there is no “D.”

Regardless, the rule of thumb with terminals at Logan is that domestic arrivals and departures are in A, B, and C, while international arrivals and departures are housed in E. However, there are some exceptions:

  • Air Canada flights arrive and depart from B
  • Delta international departures leave from A
  • Emirates flights leave from C

The big reasons that Delta flights (to Amsterdam, London Heathrow, and Paris) and Emirates flights can depart from other terminals is that, at least in the United States, passengers don’t need to go through customs when getting on an international flight. However, when they are arriving from another country, they need to go through customs, which is located in E.

Airlines

While Boston is technically a “hub” for Delta, many in the aviation community would consider it to be a “hub in name only.” After all, Delta operations at Logan are small compared to those at its other U.S. hubs. That said, America, Delta, and United all have a number of mainline flights out of Boston to places like Miami, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as well as numerous other destinations throughout the contiguous United States (in 31 states, to be exact). Additionally, jetBlue and Southwest have extensive presences at Logan, making it a haven for low-cost flights as well as mainline operations.

However, the real growth at Logan is happening in the international sector. Ten years ago, Logan was known as having extensive service to Western Europe, but virtually nothing in Asia. Now, however, there are numerous Middle East and Far East destinations, which are listed below:

  • 2014: Dubai (Emirates), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Beijing (Hainan Airlines)
  • 2015: Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific), Tel Aviv (El Al), Shanghai (Hainan Airlines)
  • 2016: Doha (Qatar Airways)

Among the seven added destinations, there have been a number of positive alterations as well. First, in May of 2015, Hainan’s Beijing flight went from four times weekly to daily. Then, in October, Emirates went from daily to twice daily on its Dubai flight. Finally, Routesonline announced that Cathay Pacific announced plans to operate its service five times per week during the summer of 2016, up from four times weekly as of now.

Below, an alphabetical list of the intercontinental destinations served from Logan as of December 2016:

  • Amsterdam – Delta Air Lines
  • Beijing – Hainan Airlines
  • Copenhagen – Norwegian Air Shuttle, Scandinavian Airlines
  • Doha – Qatar Airways
  • Dubai – Emirates
  • Dusseldorf – airberlin
  • Frankfurt – Lufthansa
  • Hong Kong – Cathay Pacific Airways
  • Istanbul – Turkish Airlines
  • Lisbon – TAP Portugal
  • London Gatwick – Norwegian Air Shuttle
  • London Heathrow – British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic Airways
  • Madrid – Iberia
  • Manchester – Thomas Cook Airlines
  • Munich – Lufthansa
  • Oslo – Norwegian Air Shuttle
  • Paris – Air France, Delta Air Lines
  • Rome – Alitalia
  • Shanghai – Hainan Airlines
  • Shannon – Aer Lingus
  • Tokyo – Japan Airlines
  • Tel Aviv – El Al
  • Zurich – Swiss Airlines

It will be exciting to see some new tails lining up outside Terminal E. However, what I’m perhaps most excited about is analyzing the effect that low-cost carriers have on the prices of mainline transatlantic carriers. For example, I don’t think that the BOS-LGW service has siphoned too much from existing BOS-LHR service, as LGW is largely the airport for leisure travelers based in South East England, while LHR is the airport for many of London’s business travelers and connecting flights, but I wouldn’t be surprised if British Airways, Delta, or Virgin Atlantic continue to lower their prices to be more competitive with Norwegian.

Anecdotal Observations

Growing up in Maine, all that I ever heard about Logan was how congested and crowded it was, particularly how long planes are forced to wait in line for security and takeoff. However, after using Logan as my local airport for more than a year, I can say that such allegations are exaggerated, at least in my experience. On six different occasions in the past two years, I have waited, maximum, 15 minutes in line at security. Similarly, taking off hasn’t been a huge hassle, either, and even two days before Thanksgiving my flight waited maybe 10 minutes in the queue for 22R.

Certainly, Logan is more crowded than the Portland Jetport where I flew out of during childhood. However, in my opinion, Logan is great, particularly compared to other major airports.

* By my count, approximately six times in two years.