NYS DOT

LaGuardia: From Third World to First World

Getting to LaGuardia Airport won’t be any faster. Don’t expect much improvement when it comes to delayed flights. But the $4 billion overhaul of its outdated central terminal – famously described by former Vice President Joe Biden as something from a “Third World country” – will bring the comforts of the First World to harried travelers once LaGuardia Gateway Partners completes construction by the end of 2021. In fact, Ed Baklor, LGP’s chief commercial officer, is bringing the lessons he learned while running Disney theme parks to transform the Queens airport’s “guest experience.” Here are a few highlights of the “terminal of tomorrow”:

CUSTOMER SERVICE

LGP has already had greeters on-site over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to welcome travelers and help with directions. On other peak days, a “fun squad” of improv artists has been brought in to entertain travelers. On a busy day this winter after a number of flights were canceled, free hot chocolate was offered at the taxi queue.

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WAIT TIME CLOCKS

LGP is already implementing screens in the existing terminal that post security line and bus and taxi wait times. “So when you get to the airport,” Baklor said, “you’ll be able to look up and see the security wait time here is X, and there it’s Y, so if it’s only a 10-minute wait time, I have plenty of time to enjoy a cup of coffee and a donut before I go through security.”

FOOD AND BEVERAGE

Most of the food vendors in the existing terminals are before the security checkpoint, a layout dating to the pre-9/11 era. “As we build the new airport, 95 percent of our food and beverage and retail experience is post-security,” Baklor said. “Once you’re through security, the stress level goes down, and I want to have that calm, de-stressed experience.”

TRAVELER FLOW

LaGuardia lacks an intuitive flow to the gate, Baklor said. In the new terminal, everyone will check in in a single large space where airlines are clearly marked. After going through a single security line, travelers will flow upstairs to a retail hub. “Right now everything has been intuitive, there’s been no decision-making, everything is moving forward, everything is flowing in the same direction,” Baklor said. “Once you’re up on the fourth floor on central terminal B’s retail experience, that’s where you decide if I go to bridge A or bridge B.”

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