The public is getting its first glimpse of a brand new, modernized LaGuardia Airport this week, with the opening of 11 gates in a new concourse at Terminal B.
Air Canada, American, and Southwest are the first airline tenants to occupy the new space, which, in contrast to the dingy and cramped quarters it’s replacing, is a gleaming, light-filled space with state-of-the-art fixtures and upscale retail brands, including an outpost of the fabled FAO Schwartz toy store. United is expected to move in early next year.
For premium travelers, the digs are a significant step up as well, with a newly opened Air Canada lounge in the concourse. Covering 7,000 square feet, double its previous space at the terminal, the facility features the carrier’s trademark services: an all-day buffet, self-serve bar, free WiFi and a business center.
Andrew Yiu, vice president, product, for Air Canada, pointed out at the opening this week that the Canadian carrier has a long history serving the Big Apple’s close-in airport – about 80 years – and that being the first in the new terminal will be a selling point to frequent travelers. “It’s a massive change,” he said of the renovated terminal.
The wing is part of what will be an 18-gate concourse, one of two that will ultimately form a two-concourse, 35-gate, fully updated Central Terminal — at a cost of $4 billion. More gates will open in 2020, with terminal expected to be fully up-and-running the following year.
The renovations are expected to boost LaGuardia's passenger rating. Photo: LGA.
But in the meantime, LaGuardia continues to languish at the bottom of passenger preference surveys (a status it shares with the two other major airports serving New York City, JFK and Newark). While it benefits from its proximity to Manhattan, LaGuardia’s old terminals and clogged access roads have long been a sore point. The airfield, which is among the 20 busiest in the country, served around 30 million passengers last year, well beyond its original capacity.
The Central Terminal is just one half of what is effectively a new airport rising on top of an existing one: Delta is also overseeing a similar project, rebuilding its presence at the airport. That terminal, replacing the current terminals C and D, will open in 2021.