New York's LaGuardia unveils new $3.9 billion Delta terminal

An $8 billion renovation project aims to change LaGuardia Airport's less-than-stellar reputation.

Posted: Dec 18, 2019 6:30 PM
Updated: Dec 18, 2019 6:30 PM

Is it really possible for fliers to have a smoother and maybe even enjoyable experience at New York's outdated and inefficient LaGuardia Airport?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says yes.

"We had to do it," Cuomo flatly stated in remarks at the LaGuardia Airport's new Delta Air Lines terminal opening celebration Tuesday.

"We are better than what LaGuardia is," Cuomo went on, even, to the audible surprise of many gathered to celebrate the milestone, referencing former US Vice President Joe Biden's 2015 description of LGA as a third-world country.

While Biden's comment rattled New Yorkers, Cuomo said he didn't disagree.

As a result of both Biden's brutal honesty and Cuomo's vision, LGA -- known for its threadbare atmosphere, constant delays, never-ending construction and all-round inefficiency -- is undergoing a $8 billion overhaul.

A better journey through LGA? Yes, you read that right

The Delta concourse, more than two years in the making, is the first phase of the airline's new $3.9 billion terminal at the airport.

What began in August 2017 is slated to be finished by 2026, according to Ryan Marzullo, the airline's managing director of corporate real estate in New York. In all, says Marzullo, the project includes four concourses connected to a headhouse, the central part of the terminal where passengers check in and go through security.

Delta's new LaGuardia concourse is a long time coming, according to Larry Studdiford, the founder of Studdiford Technical Solutions, an airport security and baggage systems consulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia.

"I'm encouraged to see the old terminals finally being replaced," he says. "It's time to upgrade the facilities with amenities and operational technologies that meet the demands of record growth in passenger numbers."

Time indeed. "It's a nightmare airport," says Julie Banning, a luxury travel advivisor with Embark, who flies through LaGuardia for work and also books flights for her clients through it, when she has no other options. "Delays are almost a given, and the there is a lot of traffic getting in and out."

Views, amenities and long-awaited basics

Delta is spending around $3.3 billion for the redesign while the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is pitching in a significant chunk of change, too -- about $600 million.

The terminal is only one part of a massive renovation that's pushing the entire airport closer to Grand Central Parkway. Delta is just one phase of the renovation, and not the first one either. That designation belongs to United's new concourse B, which opened in December 2018.

"Essentially, what we're doing is tearing down the existing Terminal C and D in different parts at different times and building one new modern terminal," says Marzullo.

The first concourse -- all 105,000 square feet of it -- was unveiled earlier Tuesday. Along with the governor, Delta CEO Ed Bastian and a slew of other top executives, in attendance were New York Mets' starting pitcher Noah Syndegaard, Mets' owner Fred Wilpon and Mets' general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. The Mets' appearance at the event underscored the importance of the airport -- and in fact, the new Delta terminal -- to one of the city's major sports teams.

The seven-gate concourse sits on the water on the eastern side of LaGuardia and boasts dramatic views of Citi Field, home of the Mets.

But the new concourse has more amenities than pretty panoramas: There's a nursing room, for one, and a relief room for dogs, an increasingly popular travel companion.

In addition, all of the seats at the spacious gate areas are equipped with an electrical outlet, a essential item for the modern traveler. A given at most major airports around the world, for LGA, it's a noteworthy advancement.

And, let's not forget about the dining. Delta has teamed with the airport hospitality group OTG, its current partner in Terminal C and D, on five concepts including beloved New York cult brands Birch Coffee, H&H Bagels and Juice Press.

What's more: Chef Mark Iacano of Brooklyn's legendary pizza joint Lucali, consulted on Rossi Pizzeria, a Neopolitan-style pizza spot. New Yorkers not keen on waiting hours to get a table at Lucali can queue up at Rossi for a similar taste and decidedly less hassle.

Chefs Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer of Soho's King Restaurant consulted on Flatiron Tavern & Provisions' menu of burgers, fish and chops, further upping the airport dining game.

Taxi!

Beyond the obvious and long-overdue features, the new concourse includes a less flashy, but no less game-changing upgrade: A dual taxi line. This feature will reduce taxi wait times, which previously could stretch close to an hour.

Larger gates -- another, less obvious feature -- will be able to accommodate bigger planes. No more taxiing around waiting for an available gate to accommodate your aircraft once your flight has landed.

"We've had scenarios where a flight gets in early or on time, but there was no available gate where a plane of its size could park," says Marzullo. "This would cause delays, but now, we can be more efficient."

Delta operates more flights out of its LaGuardia hub than it does from John F. Kennedy International Airport, roughly 275 peak-day departures. The shiny new terminal may make LGA a more desirable option for travelers choosing between the two.

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