New York’s LaGuardia Airport is truly in a league of its own. Despised as decrepit and inefficient, the airport is scheduled for a $4 billion overhaul, pushed aggressively by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to be completed in 2021 or 2022. LaGuardia’s three primary terminals are to be merged into one, with a large central arrivals and departures hall.
While the budget and construction schedule appear overly ambitious to some, there is reason to believe the political stars have finally aligned to make a new LaGuardia not just possible but almost certain, if everybody stays on board.
Here are some of the powerful parties to the overhaul, and some of the interested ones.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
LaGuardia is an embarrassment for the Port Authority, which oversees the region’s airports and has struggled for years to find funding to fix it. Now, the governor’s direct involvement could finally bestow the title of America’s Worst Airport on another city. The Port Authority, however, has plenty of budget interests competing with LaGuardia. Backers of the renovation will need to keep the project in focus.
Delta Air Lines
Delta is the largest airline by traffic at LaGuardia and has completed a $260 million overhaul of Terminals C and D over the past three years, giving it little reason to support a full airport redesign. Yet it is, agreeing to amend both of those terminals in tandem with the LaGuardia project. Delta is asking the Port Authority to end a “perimeter rule” that limits flights at LaGuardia to 1,500 miles; ending the rule would enable nonstop service to the West Coast. Does Delta’s cooperation on a unified LaGuardia mean it will get the rule lifted? It’s not clear. “We’ll look to build on our earlier investments and continue to enhance the experience for our customers,” Delta spokeswoman Elizabeth Wolf said.
New York’s governor was stung by disparaging comments Vice President Joe Biden made about LaGuardia in early 2014, when he called it a disgrace. "If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York," he said, you'd think, " 'I must be in some Third World country.' " Cuomo invoked the “Third World” comment on July 27, sitting beside the grinning veep at a news conference. Cuomo is keen to be the governor who banished a 30-year eyesore and gave the city a new, functional airport.
Global Gateway Alliance
A local civic group, the alliance has been arguing for transport improvements at all three New York-area airports. It is led by local business leaders, who say neglecting the airports will limit the city’s economic growth. The alliance, which remains skeptical about both the $4 billion budget and the timeline, says it will monitor the project closely. “For too long, our airports have been caught in big modernization plans and small actions,” alliance founder Joseph Sitt said.
The world’s largest carrier by traffic has long been eager to see the Central Terminal Building, its home in the most ramshackle part of ramshackle LaGuardia, turned into a proper airport experience. The expansion of that project to cover the entire airport caught American by surprise. The airline is fine with it—so long as the Central Terminal portion of the work remains the project’s paramount objective.
The largest airline at JFK by passengers, JetBlue wanted a hotel there, and it gets one. The 505-room, $250 million TWA Flight Center Hotel, built around the Eero Saarinen TWA terminal, is scheduled for completion in 2018. Saarinen’s landmark terminal, which opened in 1962, has become an aviation icon. The hotel isn't part of the LaGuardia project but was included in Cuomo's media event. It's a big deal for the city, as none of its big airports have a hotel on their property. JetBlue is less keen on seeing the LaGuardia perimeter rule end, given its long-haul flying from JFK.