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March 21, 2008

Rana : Ask Rana

LGA is Living Hell

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Just flying out of one of the nation's richest cities  with the worst airport, LaGaurdia  The amenities are a joke, the airport design is uglier than a bus terminal.  And when I asked the TSA agent his favorite restaurant he smirked and replied, "Not in this dump."  While JFK recently went over a major makeover with celebrity chefs, gourmet markets and martini bars, it's twin sister is in dire  need of a face lift!

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A facelift would be nice, but there are deeper problems too. I remember reading somewhere that the number of landing slots assigned at LGA and/or JFK actually exceeds the airports' capacities. Even with good weather, they can't help but fall behind.

You've probably seen the special notice on Air Canada's web site when you book a flight to LGA that tells you to leave extra time due to chronic traffic congestion. I don't know of any other airport in the world where they show such a warning -- even with much busier airports like Heathrow, Hong Kong, or O'Hare.

Michael Wells

LaGuardia is a bit like Midway or National, which are also their cities' older airports and antiquated. You're right, they could all use facelifts.

I like Newark for New York because you can get all the way there by train, although it's no great shakes as a facility. LaGuardia is an old airport surrounded by city traffic, while O'Hare and Heathrow are way out in the burbs. A fairer comparison might be San Francisco, which can take hours to get to at rush hour, and has chronic delays -- although they're often fog related.


The foodie blog at the NYTimes solved the LGA restaurant problem on Tuesday.


Campus Entrepreneurship


Midway and National have both received facelifts in the last 5/7 years or so.
I LOVE NATIONAL -- (I am not a foodie like R & R) b/c it is small, 10 mins from my house, and does have some decent food (I am a simpleton from Chicago)....

BTW, if anyone is in Midway, go get yourself a corned Beef sandwich from Manny's... I am not sure what terminal it is in, but it is great and a real chicago institution... (I recommend having them cut your sandwich lean...


Yes, both National and Midway are near-downtown small airport gems, with their relatively new terminals. Midway explicitly courted home-town eateriers for their wonderful new centrally-located food court (my wife and I always stop by there for a bite to eat before heading to our gate).

While LaGuardia will continue to have problems of air traffic and congestion, I don't see why they can't pull a Midway or National in terms of gutting nearly all of their central terminal complex and starting from scratch (in phases, of course). Now, they will have to preserve the wonderful Marine Air Terminal (currently home to Delta Shuttle) for historic preservation purposes, but the rest can be completely re-vamped (National also maintained the old historic terminal while moving most airline operations to the new complex, which has the added bonus of being directly connected to the Metrorail station). Can the Port Authority pull this off?

P.S.: I'm another Chicago simpleton


Excuse me, but National airport is a GEM?! I am in shock. The two major airports servicing our nation's capital, IAD-Dulles and DCA - National are a disgrace. These two dinosaurs serve as the gateway to the capital of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA -the first impression international and domestic visitors get upon landing in Washington DC. Cosi, Dunkin Donuts, Tidewater Cafe, and T.G.I.F. Pathetic - I think we can do a little better here folks!

Gary Gates

National is fantastic and yes, absolutely a gem. Your first impression of DC is the approach along the Potomac with the Virginia countryside on one side and DC monuments on the other. What could be better? The airport is bright, airy, and has shopping and food on both sides of security. At most times, security is relatively efficient and less than 10 minutes. You can get from the airport to Dupont Circle in 20 minutes. I'm not aware of a better major US airport.

Campus Entrepreneurship

Well said Gary!

Michael Wells

Probably a "compared to what" question. I was peeved at Midway last year because there was noplace to sit and work, and it required you to pay for a wireless connection. I was passing through so didn't get out of my concourse, and missed Manny's, good to know they have locals. Do the local eateries have street pricing? I think that's a basic for a user-friendly airport.

If shopping and food regardless of quality, on both sides of security, is a good airport then we set the bar pretty low. Yes, the Metro does come directly to National, which is a real plus.

My votes for what makes a bad airport (leaving out the obvious like dirty bathrooms): Blaring TV's you can't escape; Low-end chain food and no alternatives; Captive-audience pricing (often double downtown prices); Small national chain bookstores and newsstands; bad signage; poor lighting for reading; no nearby gas stations for rental cars; bad temperture control.

hayden fisher

It's about time someone commented on LGA!!!! I've always been frightfully amazed that LGA services THE mother of all cites.

But, in some ways, I like the urban grit of it too, all these other fru-fru NEW airports leave much to be desired as well. Suburba-ports

Gary Gates

"My votes for what makes a bad airport (leaving out the obvious like dirty bathrooms): Blaring TV's you can't escape; Low-end chain food and no alternatives; Captive-audience pricing (often double downtown prices); Small national chain bookstores and newsstands; bad signage; poor lighting for reading; no nearby gas stations for rental cars; bad temperture control."

With the possible exception of blaring TVs (and actually leaving in the obvious dirty bathrooms), you've described London Heathrow to a tee--perhaps the busiest and worst airport I frequently have the "pleasure" of using.


Rana - I appreciate your comments regarding National. I would only say that sub-part restaurants/concessions is a US-wide phenomenon, not limited to Washington National. That being said, I think National does a pretty good job on the concessions front compared to most US airports - yes, there are chainy-type places like TGI Fridays, but they have some local flavor. The Smithsonian also has a gift-shop there - a nice touch. Overall, if US airport concessions were run by retail developers rather than institutional contractors (HMSHost, ARA Services, etc.), things would improve. I think there are some trends in certain airports moving in this direction, thankfully (you mention JFK). I have to say that customer-driven airport development in the US is eons behind Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, unfortunately. This is where the US is clearly NOT the innovator.

No, it is not an Amsterdam Schiphol or Singapore Changi, but it is very pleasant. My main focus was on (a) the (newer) terminal, and (b) the location and Metrorail convenience.


Being a long term new yorker, it's just amazing to visit other airports in this country and realize that we have one the of the most horrible airports. The issue runs deeper then just an external face-lift. What about the delays, congestion and service?
Me and my wife travel a great deal for both business and family visits. We both moved to New York City with a dream and have come a long way. Unfortunately, as we enter our early thirties, we are starting to see a different picture. With our jobs becoming more demanding and our living and commute situation almost being the same as it were in college, we plan on leaving New York City within the year regardless of our highly creative, good paying and exciting jobs. I believe with ugly unfunctional airports, horrendeous traffic, overcrowded subways, bad public schools and outrageous rents, it's just a matter of time before other young couples throw in the towel too. A friend just moved to Long Island from the City and told me that during rush hour, people stand on the trains going home. Being from Long Island I can say that New York is not what it used to be and no one should have to live with this type of service and congestion. Especially at such a high price. Do other cities offer a better quality of life while supporting individuals with our skills and interests? I sure hope so, because were coming.

Just to give you a description on how we fit into the creative class check this out: I design, manage and create art for major label musicians as well as various television and fashion brands and my wife is a senior manager of visual display and merchandising. We have both lived in williamsburg brooklyn for 7 years before we where forced to move because of high rents. Now we are leaving for a better quality of life... is it worth standing on line at LGA for 2 hours and then sitting on the hanger for another 2 hours. Is it worth being lucky if you will ever be able to have a green patch as a yard? Is it worth standing on the crowded subway, day in, day out? What about the little things that should come easy?

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