Skip to content

LaGuardia Airport's AirTrain clears last big hurdle as FAA approves $2.1 billion plan

July 21, 2021
4 min read
LaGuardia Airport's AirTrain clears last big hurdle as FAA approves $2.1 billion plan
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor's Note

This post was updated to clarify current public transport options to LGA.

The makeover of one of America's least-liked major airports continues.

LaGuardia Airport's (LGA) AirTrain has just gained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), clearing the way for work to begin on the $2.1 billion elevated rail project before the summer winds down, according to the New York Times. It's the latest improvement designed to transform LaGuardia, an airport President Biden once referred to as "a third-world country" and TPG once named the worst airport in the U.S., into a world-class airport.

This latest improvement, once completed, could actually allow the words "convenient" and "LaGuardia" to be used in the same sentence, for perhaps the first time ever.

Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.

What does the AirTrain mean for travelers? It provides for the first time a direct rail connection that allows people to get to and from LaGuardia without having to endure New York City's legendarily frustrating traffic problems. If early planning for the project begins at the end of summer, it's estimated the AirTrain will be completed in 2025.

It can't come quickly enough for some New Yorkers, who have griped for years about the airport being one of the only major terminals in the northeast to not have reliable direct rail options.

For years, that has been one of the consistent complaints about LaGuardia, which is less than 10 miles from Manhattan. Passengers flying in and out of LGA mostly take cabs and ride share services, because the public transportation options to get you to and from the airport generally involve a subway ride and then a bus transfer. You can imagine the traffic congestion this causes.

TPG has covered the project in detail in the past; you can read much more about it here.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Related: Which NYC area airport should I fly into?

That's where the AirTrain comes in. It is said to offer a maximum 30-minute commute from Midtown Manhattan for people boarding the 7 Subway train or a Long Island RailRoad train (L.I.R.R.). Those trains both service the Mets-Willets Point station in Queens. The AirTrain will then run along the north side of the Grand Central Parkway from Willets Point to two stations at LaGuardia.

The route the AirTrain will take is one of several concerns raised by critics, including political rising star and Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the environmental group Riverkeeper. Both argue that the path the AirTrain takes is indirect and will have a negative impact on surrounding Queens communities.

To get to Manhattan, which is west of LaGuardia, travelers leaving the airport would first go the opposite way — riding east to connect to the subway or a commuter train at a station next to CitiField, where the Mets play. Port Authority officials defend the chosen route as the least disruptive to the neighborhoods around the airport in northern Queens.

The AirTrain is the latest component of the plan by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to essentially build an entirely new LaGuardia Airport. If you've flown in or out of LGA in the past two years, you've no doubt noticed some of the improvements, especially with the brand new Terminal B.

Related: LaGuardia's new terminal B is a huge upgrade

All of the airport terminals and gates are being replaced and when completed, will provide easier access for travelers moving between them. The recently-finished West parking garage has also helped alleviate one of LaGuardia's most frustrating elements, the endless traffic backup of cabs, private vehicles and rideshares.

As mentioned before, the price tag for the AirTrain is marked at $2.1 billion, essentially five times the original estimate of $450 million given when the project was first proposed in 2015. The Port Authority, which runs the three major NYC-area airports, has seen its financial picture badly hurt by the pandemic's impact on travel. It says it plans to pay for the AirTrain using fees collected from passengers at the airports it runs, but the F.A.A. has yet to approve that plan.

Featured image by SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023