The fancy new terminal at LaGuardia Airport

“Wait, La Guardia Is Nice Now? Inside New York’s $25 Billion Airport Overhaul” (New York Times, July 2022):

The first airport to be completed will be La Guardia, where Delta Air Lines has just opened a gleaming, $4 billion terminal … already won an award as the best new airport building in the world.

I was there earlier this month! Let’s check it out…

The ticketing level was mostly empty on a Sunday afternoon:

You walk around a corner, marvel at the enormous artwork (zoom in and you can see the chin diaper on the righteous New Yorker), and head upstairs…

The security line was non-existent and there is an interesting Agam-inspired illuminated artwork above it:

It’s all-Delta-all-the-time out the window:

The interior space is beautiful:

(Note cloth mask against an aerosol virus worn by the Soldier of Faucism riding the escalator.)

Does the airport terminal achieve greatness? Not for me. Nobody seems to have had any imagination for what passengers should be able to do inside. There are the usual options: shop for magazines and junk food, eat in a restaurant, drink at a bar. What if you are stuck there for 4 hours due to thunderstorms or a missed connection? (admittedly the latter is rare due to LGA not being a hub) There’s no amazing garden or aquarium or art museum or science museum inside. There are no historic aircraft hanging from the ceiling. Qatar put a lap swimming pool inside their big terminal. Maybe that’s too much to ask from the folks who gave us the New York Subway, but how about a planetarium? Why not a pinball and video arcade? A carting track? A trampoline park? (the last few ripped off from Dezerland, a vast indoor space in Orlando where almost anyone can happily spend a few hours)

I’m not sure what makes all of these airport terminals so similar in terms of what passengers can actually do while they wait. I’m going to guess that it is the desire of the airport operator to make the last possible dollar on rent, the same thing that causes American shopping malls to be so similar and dull.

10 thoughts on “The fancy new terminal at LaGuardia Airport

  1. There mere sight of a ponderously long security line guardrail causes PTSD in lions. Guess Delta is the new Southwest, these days. Remember when Delta was having its rotten years 30 years ago.

  2. La Guardia, Newark, and JFK are all crappy airports for travelers, IMO. Not only is there little to do in the airports themselves, but they are so far removed from NYC’s attractions that it’s not easy or quick to leave the airport and do something fun nearby. Your flight was rescheduled? Yay, now you have an extra 4 hours in NYC to…read your book.

  3. I had a 12-hour connection at Incheon. There was pouring rain outside and I didn’t want to deal with border control/security. I thought I would spend couple hours in some nice restaurant with great Korean food, but there was no place like that inside this huge terminal! All places were small and fast-foody. I ended up spending most of the time in Korean Air Prestige lounge, and it was very basic. Apparently there is high-tier lounge, but not for Delta customers.

    There was a lot of high-end shopping with bored salespeople, which seems equally stupid choice as what is chosen in American airports.

  4. A direct train connection to Midtown would be a beautiful addition to LGA. If after spending a few billion there is some taxpayer money left, I’m not opposed to paying for some Banksy or Biden paintings to beautify the train cars.

    • There are presumably financial interests that work against any direct train connection to Manhattan. Over the years several efforts have been made that end up with trains that lead to nowhere or a journey that is so long and complicated that no one except a penniless college student with lots of time on his hands would undertake. The construction industry makes a bundle from these projects but for the rest of us what is built is pretty useless.

  5. Also, I think the terminals could benefit from having some murals painted by Hunter Biden. I have taken a quick look at his work ( and my gut feeling is that he could be a great muralist. Diego Rivera, Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiro, and Hunter Biden.

    I think so far his paintings have been sold to only private collectors. It is time for taxpayers to purchase his works directly and let the general public enjoy it.

  6. I don’t see anything fancy in this airport from those pictures Philip shared. New York Times needs to rewrite this story and show us the fancy homes, cars, jewelry, clubs, and vacations those bureaucrats who lead this project have pocketed for themself. But of course, there is no corruption in NYC.

  7. Unrelated: Hooray! Pride month is finally here! How will this blog be celebrating pride for the next 30 days?

  8. There must be some unspoken, unwritten “gentleperson’s agreement” between all the airports that their accommodations for food and enjoyment, relaxation, etc., are deliberately left bland and basic. Maybe they don’t want people missing flights while enjoying the fun. Maybe they don’t want the homeless camping out on the ferris wheel, theater, or water park (or better yet…using them as restrooms, including the pools, etc.) I can reasonably guess that all the workers are unionized and the contracts specify exactly what they’re allowed and forbidden to do at a given pay grade. Maybe they have contracts with all the regular that specify the amount of “competition” is allowed in the airports.

    Maybe it’s something they would like to do but are forbidden by TSA/Homeland Security rules and regulations. Then there’s the “lining of pockets” suggestion by George A.

    Maybe it’s a mixture of all the above. Then there are the “stateless” people who cannot re-enter either their home country or destination, so they sit in the airport and waste away. Do they want those people hanging out in the botanical garden?

    It is strange, though, and I’ve thought similar things on a couple of occasions. They spend billion$ to R&R these terminals and at LaGuardia, although it’s nice to see it relatively clean and new, it’s certainly not much of a tourist destination on its own. It would be very cool to have a museum dedicated to memorable flights and travelers who passed through over the years, and the changes made to the airport to accommodate different types of planes, airlines, and rules and regulations over its history. That couldn’t cost more than half a billion to research and build, could it?

    • What about theme airports in Dubai and Saudi Arabia? They are *heavy* into attracting big spenders and people who want to see their country’s splendiferousness. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut on Manhattan: “Someone sprinkled huge quantities of money on the island and giant crystals sprouted from the bedrock.” I think in Saudi Arabia you can do indoor skiing and snowboarding in the middle of the desert:

      “Yes, yes it has a large carbon footprint, my friend. It also has a Kingdom’s worth of ice and snow footprint! Get gnarly, dudes and gals!”

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