LaGuardia Airport (IATA: LGA, ICAO: KLGA, FAA LID: LGA) /ləˈɡwɑːrdiə/ is an airport in the northern part of the New York Cityborough of Queens in the United States. It is on the waterfront of Flushing Bay and Bowery Bay in East Elmhurst and borders the neighborhoods of East Elmhurst, Astoria, and Jackson Heights. The airport is the third busiest airport serving New York City, and the twentieth most busy in the United States. LaGuardia Airport covers 680 acres (280 ha) in total.

The New York City metropolitan area’s JFK International, LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty International airports combine to create the largest airport system in the United States, second in the world in terms of passenger traffic, and first in the world in terms of total flight operations. In 2011, the airport handled 24.1 million passengers; In 2016, LaGuardia Airport had a strong growth in passenger traffic; about 29.8 million passengers used the airport, a 14.2 percent increase from the previous year. JFK handled 59.0 million and Newark handled 40.4 million, a total of about 129.7 million travelers using New York airports. In addition, LaGuardia is the busiest airport in the United States without any non-stop service to Europe. A perimeter rule prohibits nonstop flights to or from points beyond 1,500 statute miles (2,400 km), but exceptions to the perimeter rule are flights on Saturdays and flights to Denver. Most transcontinental flights use JFK or Newark, as do all international flights except those from airports within the perimeter that also have United States border preclearance; there is no border control facility at the airport.

Glenn H. Curtiss Airport (named after aviation pioneer Glenn Hammond Curtiss), later renamed North Beach Airport, was the earlier airport at this location. The name was changed after New York City’s takeover and reconstruction to New York Municipal Airport–LaGuardia Field, and in 1953 became “LaGuardia Airport”, named for Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York when the airport was built.

LaGuardia has been criticized for some of its outdated facilities. Former Vice President Joe Biden compared LaGuardia to a “third world country” and the airport has been ranked in numerous customer surveys as the worst in the United States. Among pilots, it is referred to as “USS LaGuardia”, because the runways are short and surrounded by water, thus giving the feel of landing on an aircraft carrier. On July 27, 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a reconstruction plan that would completely replace the existing airport.

History

Construction

The site of the airport was originally used by the Gala Amusement Park, owned by the Steinway family. It was razed and transformed in 1929 into a 105-acre (42 ha) private flying field named Glenn H. Curtiss Airport after the pioneer Long Island aviator, later called North Beach Airport.

The initiative to develop the airport for commercial flights began with an outburst by New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia (in office from 1934 to 1945) upon the arrival of his TWA flight at Newark Airport – the only commercial airport serving the New York City region at the time – as his ticket said “New York”. He demanded to be taken to New York, and ordered the plane to be flown to Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, giving an impromptu press conference to reporters along the way. He urged New Yorkers to support a new airport within their city.

American Airlines accepted La Guardia’s offer to start a trial program of scheduled flights to Floyd Bennett, although the program failed after several months because of Newark’s better proximity to Manhattan. La Guardia went as far as to offer police escorts to airport limousines in an attempt to get American Airlines to continue operating the trial program.

During the Floyd Bennett experiment, La Guardia and American executives began an alternative plan to build a new airport in Queens, where it could take advantage of the new Queens–Midtown Tunnel to Manhattan. The existing North Beach Airport was an obvious location, but much too small for the sort of airport that was being planned. With backing and assistance from the Works Progress Administration, construction began in 1937. Building on the site required moving landfill from Rikers Island, then a garbage dump, onto a metal reinforcing framework. The framework below the airport still causes magnetic interference on the compasses of outgoing aircraft: signs on the airfield warn pilots about the problem.

Because of American’s pivotal role in the development of the airport, LaGuardia gave the airline extra real estate during the airport’s first year of operation, including four hangars, which was an unprecedented amount of space at the time. American opened its first Admirals Club (and the first private airline club in the world) at the airport in 1939. The club took over a large office space that had previously been reserved for the mayor, but he offered it for lease following criticism from the press, and American vice president Red Mosier immediately accepted the offer.

The site of the airport was originally used by the Gala Amusement Park, owned by the Steinway family. It was razed and transformed in 1929 into a 105-acre (42 ha) private flying field named Glenn H. Curtiss Airport after the pioneer Long Island aviator, later called North Beach Airport.

The initiative to develop the airport for commercial flights began with an outburst by New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia (in office from 1934 to 1945) upon the arrival of his TWA flight at Newark Airport – the only commercial airport serving the New York City region at the time – as his ticket said “New York”. He demanded to be taken to New York, and ordered the plane to be flown to Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, giving an impromptu press conference to reporters along the way. He urged New Yorkers to support a new airport within their city.

American Airlines accepted La Guardia’s offer to start a trial program of scheduled flights to Floyd Bennett, although the program failed after several months because of Newark’s better proximity to Manhattan. La Guardia went as far as to offer police escorts to airport limousines in an attempt to get American Airlines to continue operating the trial program.

During the Floyd Bennett experiment, La Guardia and American executives began an alternative plan to build a new airport in Queens, where it could take advantage of the new Queens–Midtown Tunnel to Manhattan. The existing North Beach Airport was an obvious location, but much too small for the sort of airport that was being planned. With backing and assistance from the Works Progress Administration, construction began in 1937. Building on the site required moving landfill from Rikers Island, then a garbage dump, onto a metal reinforcing framework. The framework below the airport still causes magnetic interference on the compasses of outgoing aircraft: signs on the airfield warn pilots about the problem.

Because of American’s pivotal role in the development of the airport, LaGuardia gave the airline extra real estate during the airport’s first year of operation, including four hangars, which was an unprecedented amount of space at the time. American opened its first Admirals Club (and the first private airline club in the world) at the airport in 1939. The club took over a large office space that had previously been reserved for the mayor, but he offered it for lease following criticism from the press, and American vice president Red Mosier immediately accepted the offer.

Later development

Although LaGuardia was a large airport for the era in which it was built, it soon became too small. Starting in 1968 general aviation aircraft were charged heavy fees to operate from LaGuardia during peak hours, driving many GA operators to airports such as Teterboro Airport in Teterboro, New Jersey. The increase in traffic at LaGuardia and safety concerns prompted the closure of nearby Flushing Airport in 1984. Also in 1984, to further combat overcrowding at LGA, the Port Authority instituted a Sunday-thru-Friday “perimeter rule” banning nonstop flights from LaGuardia to cities more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) away; at the time, Denver was the only such city with nonstop flights, and it became the only exception to the rule. (In 1986 Western Airlines hoped to fly 737-300s nonstop to Salt Lake City and unsuccessfully challenged the rule in federal court). Later, the Port Authority also moved to connect JFK and Newark Airport to regional rail networks with the AirTrain Newark and AirTrain JFK, in an attempt to make these more distant airports competitive with LaGuardia. In addition to these local regulations, the FAA also limited the number of flights and types of aircraft that could operate at LaGuardia.

LaGuardia’s traffic continued to grow. By 2000, the airport routinely experienced overcrowding delays, many more than an hour long. That year, Congress passed legislation to revoke the federal traffic limits on LaGuardia by 2007. The reduced demand for air travel following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City quickly slowed LaGuardia’s traffic growth, helping to mitigate the airport’s delays. Ongoing Port Authority investments to renovate the Central Terminal Building and improve the airfield layout have also made the airport’s operations more efficient in recent years.

FAA approved Instrument Departure Procedure “Whitestone Climb” and the “Expressway Visual Approach to Runway 31” which both overfly Citi Field.

In late 2006, construction began to replace the air traffic control tower built in 1962 with a more modern one. The tower began operations on October 9, 2010.

Delta–US Airways slot swap

On August 12, 2009, Delta Air Lines and US Airways announced a landing slot and terminal swap in separate press releases. Under the swap plan, US Airways would have given Delta 125 operating slot pairs at LaGuardia. US Airways, in return, would have received 42 operating slot pairs at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and be granted the authority to begin service from the US to São Paulo, Brazil and Tokyo, Japan. When the swap plan was complete, Delta Shuttle operations would have moved from the Marine Air Terminal to Terminal C (the present US Airways terminal), and Terminals C and D would have been connected together. US Airways Shuttle flights would have moved to the Marine Air Terminal, and mainline US Airways flights would have moved to Terminal D (the present Delta terminal). The United States Department of Transportation announced that they would approve the Delta/US Airways transaction under the condition that they sell slots to other airlines. Delta and US Airways dropped the slot swap deal in early July 2010 and both airlines filed a court appeal. In May 2011, both airlines announced that they would resubmit their proposal of the slot swap to the US DOT. It was tentatively approved by the US DOT on July 21, 2011. The slot swap received final approval from the US DOT on October 10, 2011.

On December 16, 2011, Delta Air Lines announced plans to open a new domestic hub at LaGuardia Airport. The investment was the largest single expansion by any carrier at LaGuardia in decades, with total flights increasing by more than 60 percent, and total destinations by more than 75 percent. By summer 2013, Delta increased operations to 264 daily flights between LaGuardia and more than 60 cities, more than any other airline.

Delta invested $100 million to renovate terminals C and D in LaGuardia, where it now operates a total of 32 gates. A 600-foot connector bridge has been built, linking the two terminals. Delta also converted the then US Airways lounge in Terminal C to a Delta Sky Club, while continuing to operate its current Sky Club in Terminal D. US Airways built a new club, placed next door to their old lounge, which has since become an American Airlines Admirals Club.

Reconstruction

In April 2010, Port Authority director Christopher Ward announced that the agency had hired consultants to explore a full demolition and rebuilding of LaGuardia’s Central Terminal. The project would create a unified, modern, and efficient plan for the airport, currently an amalgam of decades of additions and modifications. The project, expected to cost 2.4 billion US dollars, will include the demolition of the existing central terminal building and its four concourses, garage, Hangar 1, and frontage roads; building temporary facilities; and designing and building a new central terminal building. The rebuilding would be staged in phases in order to maintain operations throughout the project.

Proposals were due on January 31, 2012. Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, said, “It’s got a quaint, nostalgic but unacceptable kind of 1940s, 1950s feel that’s just not acceptable.” The Port Authority was seeing a private company to develop and operate the replacement terminal with private funds, similar to how Delta operates the other terminals at the airport. However, in January 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan for the state to oversee construction of the long-stalled new terminal project instead of the proposed public-private partnership.

On July 27, 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by then-Vice PresidentJoe Biden, announced a $4 billion plan that would rebuild the terminals as one contiguous building with terminal bridges connecting buildings. Airport officials and planners had concluded that the airport essentially had to be torn down and rebuilt.

Plan details

Under the plan, a single unified terminal building is to be constructed in stages, with a people mover, retail space and a new hotel. Some 2 miles (3.2 km) of additional taxiways would be built. A people mover would connect the new terminal sections, the Grand Central Parkway would be reconfigured, and AirTrain LaGuardia, previously announced, will connect the airport to the Mets – Willets Point subway station and the Mets – Willets Point LIRR station. A proposed high speed ferry, if introduced, will service the Marine Air Terminal, a national historic landmark, which will remain intact. An onsite tram has also been proposed to move passengers more quickly within the central terminal. The new airport would be eco-friendly and contain accommodations such as a hotel of approximately 200 rooms and a business/conference center. The entire airport will move 600 feet (180 m) closer to the Grand Central Parkway.

New parking garages will replace the parking facilities between the existing terminals and Grand Central Parkway, creating space for the new facilities. By locating the terminals closer to the Grand Central Parkway, additional space for aircraft taxiways and hold areas will be created, reducing ground delays. The runways themselves will not be reconfigured.

Construction of the project’s first phase started in spring of 2016, once final plans were approved by the Port Authority board, with the entire redevelopment scheduled to be completed by 2021. Terminal B will be demolished, and Delta Air Lines will rebuild its terminals C and D in coordination with the plan. This is as both the airline and Port Authority have agreed to work together in building the single terminal. The new airport will feature an island gate system, with passengers connecting between the terminal building and the gates via bridges that will be high enough for aircraft to taxi under. In late March 2016, the comprehensive plans for the redevelopment were approved unanimously. Construction costs were estimated to range from $4 billion to $5.3 billion in total.

Terminals

LaGuardia currently has four terminals connected by buses and walkways. Signage throughout the terminals was designed by Paul Mijksenaar. As with the other Port Authority airports, some terminals at LaGuardia are managed and maintained by airlines themselves. Terminals A and D and most of Terminal C are operated by Delta Air Lines, with Terminal B under direct Port Authority operation.

Terminal A (Marine Air Terminal)

The Marine Air Terminal (MAT) was the airport’s original terminal for overseas flights. The waterside terminal was designed to serve the fleet of flying boats, or Clippers, of Pan American Airways, America’s main international airline throughout the 1930s and 1940s. When a Clipper would land in Long Island Sound, it would taxi up to a dock where passengers would disembark into the terminal. During World War II new four-engine land planes were developed, and flying boats stopped carrying scheduled passengers out of New York after 1947. The last Pan American flight left the terminal in February 1952, bound for Bermuda.

The terminal is home of the largest mural created during the Roosevelt-era Works Progress AdministrationFederal Art Project. Created by New York artist James Brooks, the mural, Flight, encircles the upper rotunda walls, telling the story of man’s conquest of the heavens up through 1942 when the work was completed. During the 1950s, many WPA artists were thought to be in collusion with Communists. Several works of art that had been created for post offices and other public facilities were therefore destroyed. Likewise, Flight was completely painted over with wall paint by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. In the late 1970s, Geoffrey Arend, an aviation historian and author of Great Airports: LaGuardia, mounted a campaign to restore the mural to its original splendor. With the help of Brooks, LaGuardia Airport manager Tim Peirce, and donations from Reader’s Digest founders DeWitt Wallace and Laurance Rockefeller, Flight was rededicated in 1980.

In 1986, Pan Am restarted flights at the MAT with the purchase of New York Air’s shuttle service between Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. In 1991, Delta Air Lines bought the Pan Am Shuttle and subsequently started service from the MAT on September 1. In 1995, the MAT was designated as a historic landmark. A $7 million restoration was completed in time for the airport’s 65th anniversary of commercial flights on December 2, 2004. Along with the Delta Shuttle, general aviation operates from the terminal through fixed-based operator Sheltair.

Terminal B

The Central Terminal Building (CTB) serves most of LaGuardia’s airlines. It is six blocks long, consisting of a four-story central section, two three-story wings and four concourses (A, B, C, and D) with 40 aircraft gates. The $36 million facility designed by Harrison & Abramovitz was dedicated on April 17, 1964. Delta and US Airways left the CTB in 1983 and 1992 respectively to their own dedicated terminals on the east side of the airport.

The Port Authority and various airlines have carried out a $340 million improvement project in the 1990s and early 2000s (decade) to expand and renovate the existing space.

Terminal C

Terminal C, the 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2), designed by William Nicholas Bodouva + Associates Architects and Planners, was opened September 12, 1992, at a cost of $250 million. The original tenant was intended to be Eastern Air Lines, but when Eastern was forcibly bankrupt in an effort by parent Texas Air Corporation to merge its assets with that of sister airline Continental Airlines, Continental assumed the leases. Continental never moved in, as it sold its leases and most of its LaGuardia slots to US Airways as part of Continental’s bankruptcy restructuring.  Trump Shuttle, successor to the Eastern Shuttle, also occupied the terminal before becoming part of US Airways. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says that the terminal handles approximately 50% of regional airliner traffic at LaGuardia.

As a result of a slot-swap deal between Delta Air Lines and US Airways, as of July 2012, Delta occupies the majority of the terminal (gates C15–C34). American Airlines (the former US Airways flights) now operates only from gates C35–C44. Gates on the east side of the lower level do not have jet bridges and are used to transport passengers via buses to and from Delta Connection flights parked at remote stands on the east side of the airport. Passengers must use air stairs to board/deplane these flights.

Terminal D

Terminal D, opened on June 19, 1983, at a cost of approximately $90 million and designed by William Nicholas Bodouva + Associates Architects. It was designed to accommodate Delta’s new Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 aircraft.[47] Delta has virtually exclusive use of this terminal, except for one gate used by Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet.

The terminal was connected to Terminal C by a 600-foot walkway that opened in early 2013, part of Delta’s effort to build a hub at LaGuardia.

Other facilities

When New York Air was in operation, its headquarters were in Hangar 5 at LaGuardia.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department (PAPD) provides law enforcement and fire-rescue services to the airport, its LaGuardia Airport Command is located in Building 137. Emergency medical services are provided by North Shore University Hospital under contract to the Port Authority.

Top destinations

Busiest domestic routes from LGA (Aug 2015 – Jul 2016)
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Chicago–O’Hare, Illinois 1,520,000 American, Delta, Spirit, United
2 Atlanta, Georgia 1,154,000 American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest
3 Miami, Florida 905,000 American, Delta, Frontier
4 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 773,000 American, Delta, Spirit
5 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 745,000 Delta, JetBlue, Spirit
6 Charlotte, North Carolina 660,000 American/US Airways, Delta
7 Orlando, Florida 560,000 American, Delta, JetBlue
8 Boston, Massachusetts 523,000 American/US Airways, Delta
9 Detroit, Michigan 489,000 American, Delta, Spirit
10 Denver, Colorado 474,000 Delta, Frontier, Southwest, United

Airline market share

Largest Airlines at LGA
(12 months ending August 2016)
Rank Airline Passengers Share
1 Delta Air Lines 11,124,604 37.96%
2 American Airlines1 8,056,152 27.49%
3 Southwest Airlines 2,757,895 9.41%
4 United Airlines 2,454,948 8.37%
5 JetBlue 1,582,380 5.40%
6 Spirit Airlines 1,296,955 4.42%
7 Air Canada 1,088,592 3.71%
8 WestJet 402,880 1.37%
9 Frontier Airlines 278,715 .95%
10 Virgin America 256,053 .87%
Notes
  • ^1 Includes US Airways

Annual traffic

Annual passenger traffic (enplaned + deplaned) at LGA, 1949 through 2015[5][53][54][55]
Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers
2010 23,983,082 2000 25,360,034 1990 22,764,604 1980 17,467,962 1970 11,845,141 1960 2,935,613
2009 22,142,336 1999 23,926,923 1989 23,158,317 1949 3,284,213
2008 23,076,903 1998 22,811,935 1988 24,158,780
2007 24,985,264 1997 21,607,448 1987 24,225,913
2006 25,810,603 1996 20,699,136 1986 22,188,871
2015 28,437,668 2005 25,889,390 1995 20,599,210 1985 20,542,452
2014 26,954,588 2004 24,435,619 1994 20,730,467 1984 20,302,511
2013 26,722,183 2003 22,482,770 1993 19,804,566
2012 25,707,784 2002 21,986,679 1992 19,745,847
2011 24,122,478 2001 22,519,874 1991 19,686,256

Ground transportation

As of September 2014, several MTA Regional Bus Operations bus lines link LGA to the New York City Subway and Long Island Rail Road, with free transfers provided for MetroCard users making subway connections. The buses are wheelchair accessible and are operated by MTA New York City Transit and MTA Bus Company:

  • M60 Select Bus Service (All terminals)
  • Q47 (Terminal A (Marine Air Terminal) only)
  • Q48 (All terminals)
  • LaGuardia Link (Q70)Select Bus Service (All terminals except Terminal A)
  • Q72 (All terminals except Terminal A)

There are also many private bus lines operating express buses to Manhattan, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island. The Port Authority runs two free shuttle bus routes, which operate at all times except overnight hours, within the airport connecting all terminals and parking lots.

Taxicabs serving the airport are licensed by New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (NYCTLC). The fares within New York City are metered. Uniformed Taxi Dispatchers are available to assist passengers before they start the rides. The airport is accessible directly from Grand Central Parkway. New York City’s limousine services, which are also licensed by the NYCTLC, offer various rates ranging from $40 to $150 from LGA airport to Manhattan (excluding tips and tolls) in a sedan or limousine.

Currently, no New York City Subway routes service the airport directly, but provisions for a subway connection are part of a 2014 long range rebuilding plan by its operator, the MTA. A similar plan to bring BMT Astoria Line service (N W trains) to the airport was defeated in 2003. On January 20, 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced AirTrain LGA, a plan to build a people mover, similar to AirTrain JFK, running along the Grand Central Parkway. This people mover would connect the airport to Willets Point, and would connect there with the New York City Subway’s 7 <7> trains at the Mets – Willets Point station and with the Long Island Rail Road at a separate Mets – Willets Point station.

Accidents and incidents

  • On February 1, 1957, Northeast Airlines Flight 823 crashed on takeoff into Rikers Island. Of 101 people aboard, 21 were killed.
  • On February 3, 1959, American Airlines Flight 320 crashed on approach into the East River. Of 73 people aboard, 65 were killed.
  • On December 16, 1960, TWA Flight 266, a Lockheed Super Constellation bound for La Guardia, collided with a United Airlines Douglas DC-8 over Staten Island, killing all 128 people on board both airliners and 6 more on the ground.
  • On January 4, 1971, a Douglas C-47A N7 of the Federal Aviation Administration crashed on approach to LaGuardia Airport. The aircraft was on a flight from Johnstown–Cambria County Airport, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The cause of the accident was wind shear.
  • On December 29, 1975, at 6:33 p.m. EST, a bomb with the equivalent force of 25 sticks of dynamite exploded in the main terminal, killing 11 and injuring 75. The victims included travelers, limousine drivers, and airline employees. It was the deadliest bombing in New York City since the Wall Street bombing of 1920. The bomb had been placed in a Trans World Airlines locker adjacent to a luggage carousel. The force of the explosion wrecked luggage carousels and destroyed the terminals large metal doors and showered the area with shards of metal and broken glass. At the time, suspects included the FALN, the Jewish Defense League, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the Croatian nationalist Zvonko Busic; two similar bombings at New Yorks Grand Central Terminal previously had been attributed to Croatians. No one ever claimed credit for the bombing or was arrested for it, and it remains unsolved.
  • On September 21, 1989, USAir Flight 5050 bound for Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, crashed after aborting takeoff and rolling off the end of the runway into the East River. The plane broke into three pieces, and two passengers died as a result.
  • On March 22, 1992, USAir Flight 405 bound for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, crashed on takeoff at LaGuardia because of icing on its wings. Of 51 people aboard, 27 were killed.
  • On March 2, 1994, Continental Airlines Flight 795 to Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado, aborted takeoff in a snowstorm and skidded down the runway into a ditch.
  • On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320 departing for Charlotte/Douglas International Airport ditched in the Hudson River after losing both engines as a result of multiple bird strikes at an altitude of 3,000 feet (910 m); all 150 passengers and 5 crew members successfully evacuated.
  • On March 5, 2015, Delta Air Lines Flight 1086 from Atlanta skidded off the runway on landing in snowy weather. The McDonnell Douglas MD-88 operating the flight, N909DL, was severely damaged. Twenty-four people sustained minor injuries during evacuation via the emergency chutes.
  • On October 27, 2016, a Boeing 737-700 operated by the new Eastern Air Lines as flight EAL 3452—carrying Vice President Mike Pence, then the Republican Vice Presidential nominee and the Governor of Indiana—skidded off Runway 22 after landing. The aircraft was ultimately stopped by the EMAS bed just before the Grand Central Parkway. No one was injured in the incident.

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