The new Arrivals and Departures Hall at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B.

Vantage Airport Group/LaGuardia Gateway Partners

  • New York’s LaGuardia Airport, referred to as a “third-world country” by former Vice President Joe Biden, has reached another milestone in its redevelopment with the opening of a new Arrivals and Departures Hall at Terminal B.

  • The headhouse, as it is known, will feature new a new check-in area, security checkpoint, and baggage claim facility. 

  • The four-level structure complements the new Eastern Concourse, which opened in 2018, and passengers on American, Southwest, Air Canada, and United will use the new hall. 

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to the LaGuardia Airport in New York you must think: ‘I must be in some third-world country.'”

Six years after then-Vice President Joe Biden called New York’s LaGuardia Airport akin to something in a “third-world country,” the airport’s developers are one step closer to declaring victory with the completion of the new Arrivals and Departures Hall for Terminal B.

The new Arrivals and Departures Hall at LaGuardia Airport's Terminal B.
The new Arrivals and Departures Hall at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B.

Vantage Airport Group/LaGuardia Gateway Partners

Beginning Saturday, travelers flying in or out of LaGuardia’s Terminal B will utilize the brand-new structure complete with new check-in desks, security screening checkpoints, and baggage claim facilities. It replaces the narrow and claustrophobic green terminal building that gave travelers little reason to look forward to a visit to the airport, despite its proximity to Manhattan compared to nearby JFK and Newark Liberty International.

Completing the 850,000-square-foot structure is the latest milestone for Vantage Airport Group, lead developer for the terminal, as part of the $5.1 billion overhaul. 

“Today’s milestone represents an important step forward in our collective efforts to revolutionize one of New York’s most important gateways and a critical piece of U.S. aviation infrastructure,” George Casey, CEO of Vantage Airport Group and board director of LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the public-private partnership behind the renovation, said in a press release. 

A recently renovated section of Terminal B.
A recently renovated section of Terminal B.

Vantage Airport Group/LaGuardia Gateway Partners

There’s still a ways to go at LaGuardia as Terminal B is only 80% complete with the Western Concourse still under construction. The new Eastern Concourse opened on December 1, 2018, and stunned visitors with its high-ceilings, expansive concourses, and bounds of natural light entering the structure through massive floor to ceiling windows, all of which had the 1960s-era concourses had lacked. 

Travelers flying on American Airlines, Air Canada, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines will be among the first to benefit from the new structure as they have remained at Terminal B since construction began. Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines, the two ultra-low-cost carriers serving the airport, moved to Delta’s Terminal C during the construction but will likely move back once full construction is completed.

The new Arrivals and Departures Hall at LaGuardia Airport's Terminal B.
The new Arrivals and Departures Hall at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B.

Vantage Airport Group/LaGuardia Gateway Partners

Some of the older, narrow concourses at the terminal will continue to operate until the Western Concourse is completed but all traveling out of the terminal will get to experience the headhouse. The new four-level structure also features New York City-themed artwork, murals, and other displays, including an homage to the Stonewall Inn.

The ultimate goal is to connect the headhouse with the terminal’s two concourses through walkway bridges large enough for planes to pass under them, removing the problem of congestion in between concourses that frequently occurred with Terminal B’s previous configuration. The terminal very infrequently sees large aircraft so the bridges need only be just higher than the largest aircraft that visits, which is usually a Boeing 767. 

On the other side of the airport, Delta Air Lines recently opened a new concourse to Terminal D and connected Terminal D with Terminal C, also used by the country’s second-largest airline. JetBlue Airways, which recently picked up and left from Terminal B for the remote Marine Air Terminal of which it is the only occupant, has also been making some enhancements to its home at LaGuardia. 

Construction at the airport will continue for the next few years as the rest of the airport’s new infrastructure is completed, much to the dismay of travelers. Building sites within the already limited confines of the airport’s perimeter has made access to the airport difficult since its the groundbreaking with a seemingly ever-changing pattern of makeshift roadways creating chaos and confusion for even the most frequent travelers.

The Eastern Concourse at LaGuardia Airport's Terminal B.
The Eastern Concourse at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B.

James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com

Early days of the renovation saw traffic backed up so badly that frustrated airport patrons were sometimes forced to abandon vehicles and traverse the airport labyrinth on foot. 

The airport still has a long way to go, even as its flagship structure nears completion, as Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for the development of a new AirTrain to serve LaGuardia, which is the only airport out of the three major New York area airports inaccessible by rail.

The Eastern Concourse at LaGuardia Airport's Terminal B.
The Eastern Concourse at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B.

James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com

Plans for the autonomous rail network call for a terminus Mets-Willets Point Station served by the New York City Subway and Long Island Rail Road. Though it would offer an alternative to the bus routes serving LaGuardia, even that plan faces criticism as its inefficient route connects the airport with a similarly underdeveloped train station that plans to pit travelers against sports fans during game times. 

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