The new LaGuardia is nothing short of amazing

Less than 10 years ago, then-Vice President Joe Biden said that being in LaGuardia Airport feels like “some third-world country”. Recently, I traveled to New York City for a week-long trip, the first time since the pandemic. The last time I was in LaGuardia was in 2018, where I remembered cramped, narrow hallways. This time, I landed in a completely different airport. And I mean it—apart from the location, there is basically nothing that is the same about the airport.

The new central concourse area in Terminal B.

How it feels different

When arriving in the new LaGuardia at Terminal B, I immediately got off the plane and realized I was in a completely new concourse. Everything looked new, from the seats to the restrooms to the building itself. To get to baggage claim, I had to go up a skybridge using an escalator that took passengers above the taxiing planes below.

The new skybridge connecting the main terminal area to the concourse.
Looking out at Terminal B’s Concourse 2 and the skybridge from the main terminal building.

Then, when I got to the main terminal building, it felt like I was in an entirely different building. Gone were the low ceilings and the outdated, decrepit building. The main terminal feels several stories high, about 5 stories tall. I felt like they built all of this on top of the old terminal building… (even though that’s not what they did; they built entirely new buildings.)

Going down to baggage claim involved taking two flights of escalators. The baggage claim area looked completely new as well.

When I took my plane out of LGA, the check-in hall was also completely new, with check-in counters vertically arranged like at all new airports, instead of horizontally spanning the length of the check-in area. Then, with security right behind the check-in area, a centralized security clearance zone boasts brand-new security machines and tray collection mechanisms under a tall ceiling. After security, you’d go up a flight of escalators to some shops, through which you’d proceed to get to the main terminal building. From there, you can make your way to your gate’s concourse by crossing one of the skybridges.

The new indoor fountain was cool and was, in my opinion, a symbol of the new LaGuardia, having something that you’d never think of the old one having. It was probably mainly made for young travelers, but it was a welcome addition nonetheless.

So what makes me say this airport is completely new? I honestly cannot remember seeing anything in 2018’s LaGuardia remotely related to what I went through this time. They did not just renovate the interior of the airport; they literally constructed new concourses and built a new building over the old one.

Gripes about the new airport

The main complaint I hear about the new airport is that it’s much bigger than the old one, and it takes longer to get from the check-in hall to the gate. To that, I say this: this is a small price to pay and is arguably irrelevant. Yes, you may have to cross a skybridge and walk five more minutes longer to your gate, but you live in New York City, which is going to need a big airport to handle all of the traffic. This is still the closest airport to Manhattan. Also, it’s still much smaller than JFK. Rather than having to deal with 8 terminals, there are only two. For people who take the MTA, it’s quite simple: you take the free Q70 bus from the Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue station, get off at the bottom level, take the escalators two floors up to the check-in hall, go through security, and then make your way through the concourse to your gate. Assuming no waits, it takes about 10 minutes in total from arrival at the airport to passing security. About 5-10 more minutes is added to the walk from security through the skybridge to the gate, but it’s honestly worth the beautiful scenery and the need to accommodate more people, gates, and planes.

Even with these small complaints, the consensus on the new LaGuardia is basically unanimous: the airport has completely changed and it is awesome now. People look forward to using LaGuardia. I am definitely in the same camp.

But wait, there’s more

Believe it or not, but the renovations (or, rather, a total rebuild?) of LaGuardia are apparently not complete yet. From what I could tell, though, this is an outdated graphic hanging in the airport, as the vast majority of the work has already been completed and the only thing that’s supposed to be coming soon are to do with the garage (if I’m not mistaken), the “Central Hall” area connecting Terminals B to C, as well as the proposed AirTrain LGA.

Would I fly LaGuardia again?

Yes, yes, yes!

The new LaGuardia is now easily my favorite airport in the United States. It compares very favorably to new airport terminals around the world: Dubai International Airport, Beijing Daxing, Berlin Brandenburg, London Heathrow Terminal 5, the new Istanbul Airport. More importantly, in response to Joe Biden’s comment that LaGuardia is like an airport in a third-world country, I can safely say that LaGuardia is now easily one of the best airports in first-world countries.

While I still have to take a bus, I am used to taking the Q70 from LaGuardia to Jackson Heights. It conveniently links up with several major subway lines like the 7 and the E. Plus, the Q70 is now free, so there’s no need to buy a MetroCard. (Not that you’d need one anyway—I used OMNY on the rest of the MTA system using my Apple Watch and it’s amazing!) The airport is the right balance between too big and too cramped, and its prime location/connection to the MTA still makes it ideal for travel compared to Newark. The jury is out on whether it beats JFK, but I would argue its closer distance continues to outweigh the lack of a direct train link to the airport.

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