LaGuardia’s new terminal is a major upgrade — see for yourself

Jun 11, 2020

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New York’s LaGuardia airport is ready for an upgrade.

With the unveiling of its latest terminal facility, one of the nation’s most disliked airports is starting to shine. The LGA airport has been under a massive, years-long overhaul and redevelopment project. Construction has been completed in phases, and the latest building — the Terminal B Arrivals and Departures Hall — will be opening on Saturday, June 13.

TPG was the first to exclusively reveal the news of the opening, and we just got a first look at the new terminal. Long story short, you may not believe your eyes. If you’re flying Air CanadaAmericanSouthwest or United, consider it a treat that you get to enjoy the new space.

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At a press conference, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo said the facility is “breathtaking, really magnificent, and features beautiful artwork.” After a quick tour, I’ve got to agree with Cuomo.

Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority, which is responsible for managing the airport, said that the opening of the new terminal marks the transition of LGA “from worst to best, from substandard to best-in-class.”

At 840,000 square feet spanning four levels, it’s got plenty of room to handle all of Terminal B’s passengers. It’s 50% larger than its predecessor.

Let’s now take a look inside the airport’s biggest milestone to date. The main entrance to the terminal is on an elevated roadway just as you exit the Grand Central Parkway.

The first thing you’ll notice is the modern architecture, high ceilings and the sheer amount of space. Anyone who has been to the old terminal will instantly recognize this as an improvement. (Plus, there are four lanes of traffic, which should help ease the congestion).

Related: JFK vs. LaGuardia vs. Newark: Which NYC airport should I fly into?

The few curbside check-in counters are located at either end of the roadway, but most check-ins will be completed inside.

Once I entered for the first time, I immediately thought I’d been transported to Los Angeles’ Tom Bradley International Terminal — I simply couldn’t believe my eyes.

There is plenty of check-in counters, all built with plexiglass barriers to keep airport workers and passengers safe. Floor markings -help passengers social-distance from one another.

Rows of kiosks are arranged in letters from A to H, which each of the terminal’s four airlines occupying some of the check-in counters.

If you’re parking at the airport, the garage is attached directly to the terminal. Once you walk inside, you’ll be greeted with brightly lit hallways, thanks to the floor to ceiling windows that have been emblazoned with murals of New York City, with quotes etched in the glass from the airport’s namesake, New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, among others.

The centerpiece of the terminal is the art installation by Sarah Sze. It’s comprised of hundreds of images that form a mirage-like sphere, making it appear like it’s floating in midair.

Lining the walls is a 625,000-piece mosaic tile completed by BRB Ceramic Tile, Marble & Stone. The tiles are arranged to form cloud murals with some New York-themed icons, like a subway sign, MetroCard, The Stonewall Inn and an ice cream truck.

Once check-in is completed, there’s a centralized security line for all of Terminal B’s passengers. Clear hasn’t yet been installed in this new concourse, but there were plenty of TSA PreCheck security lanes.

In total, there are 16 security lanes, which should be plenty to handle passenger volume once demand recovers from the coronavirus lows.

After clearing security, there’s an escalator to take you to the brand-new concessions area before heading to your departure concourse. The concessions area was clearly designed for the 21st century and features modern touches like contactless ordering.

Related: Delta’s new concourse is a tantalizing preview of the LaGuardia renovation

The food selection includes New York staples and major chains like Dunkin’, Dos Toros Taqueria, Tony & Benny’s and Zaro’s Bakery. There are a few clothing and souvenir stores as well, such as Kate Spade.

Flyers won’t need to worry about missing their flights because of a lack of signage. The terminal has state-of-the-art passenger displays located prominently throughout the concourses. Fast and free Wi-Fi is available everywhere; I measured speeds of upwards of 150 Mbps download and upload.

One area that’s still under construction is an outdoor terrace, which will feature sweeping views of the city skyline, as well as a still-unnamed restaurant. According to Cotton, this area will be completed by the end of 2021.

Another space under construction is a brand new Amex Centurion Lounge. It’s going to be much larger than the original one at LGA, and it’s going to be post-security.

Restrooms in the new terminal are identical to those in the new Eastern B Concourse which opened in December 2018. There’s a family room, nursing mothers room and a pet relief area. The standard men’s and women’s areas are a massive improvement from those in the old terminal.

Related: Airlines, airports shift terminals as passenger traffic craters

If you’re flying from the Eastern Concourse, you’ll then walk through the new pedestrian bridge, which soars hundreds of feet above the existing Central Terminal.

This new bridge was built so high to allow the airport to add a new taxiway for aircraft to help ease congestion. The old Central Terminal is slated to be demolished within the next six months, so it shouldn’t be too long before you can bid farewell to long waits for gate space.

If you’re flying from the old gates, you’ll find a temporary walkway after clearing security. The new Western Concourse and pedestrian bridge are estimated to be completed in 2022.

Arriving passengers will be directed to the main exit located one floor above the departures level. It’ll definitely require more walking than before, but at least there are high ceilings and gorgeous artwork to enjoy along the way.

After exiting, you’ll go down two levels of escalators to find nine baggage claims.

Related: Review of the Eastern Concourse of Terminal B

Passengers being picked up by family or friends will be able to exit right from this area. If you’re using an app-based rideshare like Lyft or Uber, you’ll still need to find your driver in the Terminal B parking garage. Fortunately, the hallway to the garage is all indoors and is clearly demarcated with plenty of signage pointing you in the right direction.

The new Main Terminal isn’t the only thing “new” at LGA. Late last year, Delta opened a new concourse primarily serving its shuttle flights. Star Alliance flyers on Air Canada and United have already had over a year to enjoy the new Terminal B Eastern wing, featuring high ceilings, modern fixtures and a brand-new Maple Leaf Lounge and United Club, as well as the new Terminal B parking garage.

All in all, the new Central Terminal B is breathtaking, compared with what the old terminal looked like. During his press conference, Governor Cuomo said the opening of the new terminal is “invigorating,” and equated the planning and construction to having a child.

“It’s like when you’re having a child and you talk about it and you see little scans of it and you plan for it, but then it’s indescribable when it actually happens,” he said.

As a New Yorker who has flown through the old LGA too many times to count, the new terminal is indeed invigorating. I hope the next time I’m at LGA, I’ll actually be taking a flight from the new terminal.

All photos by the author.

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