Skip to content

Why don’t NYC airports require proof of vaccination? It’s complicated. 

Nov. 02, 2021
5 min read
Why don’t NYC airports require proof of vaccination? It’s complicated. 
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.

Two weeks ago, I asked why restaurants and lounges in New York’s two largest airports aren’t enforcing the city’s vaccine mandate that went into effect on Sept. 13.

According to the city’s Key to NYC program, anyone 12 years or older dining indoors, using a gym or attending indoor entertainment venues in one of New York's five boroughs must present a valid vaccination certificate.

While compliance with the new mandate has been nearly 100% in my experience — I’ve been asked to provide my vaccination card before entering any restaurant, comedy show or fitness class I’ve taken in New York City — there’s one place that’s seemingly adhering to the city’s rule: the airport.

For more TPG news and deals delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Throughout my (and my colleagues') numerous visits to both LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airports — both of which are located in the New York City borough of Queens — our vaccination cards haven’t been checked in food courts, restaurants or lounges.

Food selection in Delta's LGA Sky Club (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As it turns out, there are some interesting nuances at play keeping the vaccination mandate out of New York’s airports.

For one, TPG has since learned that city doesn’t actually oversee the Key to NYC program in the region’s airports. That’s according to a City Hall official who told TPG on Oct. 22 that the city’s airports are “technically in the Port Authority’s jurisdiction.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey oversees and manages the region’s airports, including JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. Though the airports fall under the agency’s jurisdiction, they should still theoretically be required to follow the mayor’s order.

According to the city’s rule, any New York City establishment which receives a grade from the Health Department for its cleanliness and hygiene that also offers indoor dining or beverage service must comply with the vaccine mandate. On the city’s dedicated webpage, there’s no mention of an exception for airport concessionaires. In fact, it’s quite the opposite — other large places of gathering, including “hotels, colleges and universities and malls” are required to enforce the mandate.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

During the press conference following the agency’s monthly board meeting on Oct. 21, Rick Cotton, the agency's executive director, offered three reasons why the mandate isn’t currently being applied at the two largest New York airports under his purview.

Cotton mentioned that “the airports are quite unique in terms of their physical infrastructure. They range from floor-to-ceiling windows and ceiling heights, 50, 60 feet and above.” His first point was seemingly that it’s safer to eat indoors in an airport than say a crowded New York City restaurant due to the larger, more spacious building.

Food court at LGA's new Terminal B (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

He continued to explain that the nuances of enforcing such a mandate would be incredibly difficult. "There are grab-and-go facilities, each concession has a very different physical infrastructure," he said. Airports offer many different types of indoor dining options, from grab-and-go counters to bars to membership-only airline lounges.

Grab-and-go establishments aren't required to enforce the city's vaccine mandate, but if a traveler picked up a pizza and started eating it at the nearby food court, he or she would then need to present a vaccine certificate according to the city's rule — a logistical challenge for the concessionaire and the Port Authority.

As for enforcing the mandate, Cotton mentioned that “we have provided the relevant regulations to each of the concessions, and it is an individual matter in terms of how those regulations should be applied.” With this point, Cotton deflected the enforcement responsibility onto the individual restaurants and lounges.

Related: Why aren’t airport lounges and restaurants in New York enforcing the city’s vaccine mandate?

In a follow-up statement to TPG on Oct. 28, Port Authority Chief of Communications Ben Branham wrote that the agency’s airports have already implemented a host of safety measures. It stopped short of mentioning the city’s vaccine mandate or why it wasn’t being enforced by the agency.

The Port Authority is in regular contact with state and local health authorities to adhere to best practices that places Port Authority airports among the most stringent in the country in ensuring the health and safety of passengers and employees. The abundance of safety measures in place include mask requirements, air filtration, social distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures – measures that have earned “STAR Accreditation” from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, the gold standard for infectious disease prevention in public facilities. Port Authority airports have also earned “Airport Health Accreditation” from Airports Council International. We believe our airports are among only a handful in the world that have earned both of these accreditations.

As we’ve since learned, the buck stops with the Port Authority and the individual concessionaires in terms of implementing the city's vaccine mandate in applicable areas of the region's airports.

For now, you can leave your vaccine card in your wallet when you’re passing through the city’s two major airports. Whether that ultimately changes is anyone's guess.

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