New York’s LaGuardia Airport just opened a brand-new taxiway that’ll end long wait times

May 20, 2021

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Flyers passing through New York’s LaGuardia airport have one more reason to celebrate.

On Thursday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with terminal developer LaGuardia Gateway Partners, inaugurated the latest enhancement in the airport’s multi-billion-dollar modernization project: a new aircraft taxiway.

Southwest Flight 617, operated by a 21-year-old Boeing 737-700, registered N767SW, became the first aircraft to use the new taxiway. A group of executives and other invited guests gathered on the western sky bridge to watch the event unfold.

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Two firetrucks sprayed the Southwest jet with an honorary water cannon salute moments after it passed under the eastern sky bridge. Before long, the jet was on its way to Tampa at 7:39 a.m. local time.

This much-anticipated improvement is much more than just another yellow line painted on concrete. That’s because it’s designed to eliminate the taxiway congestion that once defined the LGA airport experience. Previously, the airport’s Central Terminal had multiple piers shaped in a horseshoe, with congested alleyways and ramps making for lengthy taxi times since only one plane could be pulled in or out at once.

That changed with the new Terminal B Arrivals and Departures hall which opened in June 2020. The check-in facility was built 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, and two sky bridges were designed to connect the east and west concourses.

The dual pedestrian bridges — a first in any airport worldwide — were built high enough so planes could taxi underneath them, creating nearly 50% more taxiway space at LGA. Additionally, thanks to the new design, jets can now go either direction along the new taxiway.

Plus, planes can start their engines immediately after pushback since there’s more spacing between aircraft in the new configuration. (Previously, they’d needed to be tugged out of the alleyway before starting up.)

“One of the big design goals for the new LaGuardia airport was to reduce gate congestion,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority, which oversees the LaGuardia Airport, in an interview with TPG.

“Now the entire concourse is surrounded by taxiways. A plane can now go left or right when it pushes back from its gate… and the aircraft can start its engine sooner…. and there are multiple options for a plane to get in or of its gate,” Cotton explained.

For now, there’s just one active sky bridge connecting the headhouse with the Eastern Concourse. The second one, designed to bridge the headhouse with the Western Concourse that serves the American Airlines gates, is still under construction, with a ribbon-cutting planned for early next year.

Once complete, it’ll create a second taxiway that goes straight from the terminal to Runway 4, another time-saving design feature in the airport’s master plan.

“Many people talk about going from worst to first, but we mean it: that’s our plan,” said Stewart Steeves, CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the firm in charge of rebuilding and operate Terminal B. “There’s going to be no airport like this in the world. That’s what New York deserves. Something that’s truly different,” Steeves continued.

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

The new taxiway is the latest in a series of improvements coming for LaGuardia flyers. In addition to the newly opened Terminal B arrivals and departures hall, the airport is making significant progress on completing the Western Concourse, which is primarily used by American Airlines.

Half of the facility is already open, with more gates and a completed sky bridge coming online at the beginning of next year, according to Steeves. Then, the airport will demolish what’s left of the old central terminal, which Steeves said will wrap up in about a year and a half.

Other improvements coming to LaGuardia include a redesigned concourse for Delta flyers, a brand-new American Airlines’ Admirals Club and an AirTrain to and from Manhattan.

At this point, it’s only a matter of time until the Port Authority realizes its vision for “a whole new LGA.” With the new taxiway that opened on Thursday, flyers can bid farewell to long waits to get to the gate or runway.

Unfortunately, however, the airport’s penalty box is still here to stay — though you’ll get to the runway faster, it’s ultimately up to the Federal Aviation Administration to determine when to clear your plane for departure.

All photos by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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