Delta Air Lines officially debuted its splashy new digs at New York’s LaGuardia Airport this week—and the $4 billion facility could deliver some much-needed buzz at a time of rising discontent among air travelers.
The new Terminal C, which partially opens to the public on Saturday, June 4, will ultimately consolidate all of Delta’s operations into one sprawling and airy space—spanning 1.3 million square feet, doubling the airline’s real estate at the airport. It’s also a showcase for new technology and design innovations to help navigate the airport—from biometric IDs and hands-free baggage drops, to digital signage posting walk times between gates and wait times at the checkpoint, to expanded gate areas with power outlets at all seats, plus new lounges and dining options.
“It is the single biggest investment Delta has ever made,” the airline’s CEO, Ed Bastian, said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by local luminaries on Wednesday, June 1. But the makeover is still several years from completion. This summer, Delta, the largest airline at LGA, will have 255 daily flights to 70 destinations operating in both Terminal C and the adjacent Terminal D.
By the time the complex fully opens in 2024, it will have 37 gates, over four concourses, all served by a centralized departures and arrivals hall spacious enough to accommodate what the airline expects will be a doubling of its current passenger count. (Terminal D will no longer exist as a separate terminal.) And the current mix of Delta mainline flights and operations by its regional carrier partners will shift to include more full-size aircraft, representing the whole range of Delta’s narrowbody fleet.
It’s also part of a broader makeover of the entire airport, for a total tab of $8 billion, including a new Central Terminal next to Delta’s—housing American, JetBlue, Southwest, and other lines—that opened midpandemic. As the new facilities rise, the remnants of the old, cramped LaGuardia are being demolished. That’s already helped erase the mockery LaGuardia endured for years at the hands of pundits and politicians—most famously by Joe Biden, who as vice president joked that anyone arriving at LGA “would think they’d landed at a Third World airport.”
Speaking at the ceremony, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul couldn’t resist reviving that much-quoted insult, saying, “President Biden, your jaw is going to drop,” if he set foot there now.
Among the eye-catching details he’d notice:
Checking in: One of the most striking features of Terminal C is visible right as you arrive: a vast arrivals lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows and a 238-foot digital back wall next to check-in, where photographic images will alternate with practical information on flights and gates, TSA wait times, and SkyClub lounge volume.
Art and design: Giant murals, mosaics, sculpture, and other art adorn the new space, the result of a partnership with the Queens Museum and a group of local artists. Digital art installations—showing scenes of New York and other subjects—are displayed in both the security and the baggage areas.
SkyClub Lounge: At 34,000 square feet, the new Delta SkyClub Lounge at LaGuardia has capacity for 600 guests and will have even more when it’s fully completed, making it the largest in the airline’s system—and rivaling the new SkyClub at LAX. It offers two buffets, three bars, and a gourmet kitchen, plus panoramic views that will only be enhanced when a planned outdoor deck opens.
Food and drink: In partnership with OTG, which operates concessions at several airports around the United States, the new Delta concourses will offer outposts of popular New York City eateries, such as Bubby’s Diner, Eggy Weggy, and Chuko Ramen and, inevitably, multiple Starbucks locations.
But what about some of the less pleasant aspects of traveling through New York’s close-in airport—namely road traffic and airport delays?
Among other things, demolishing the old airport gave managers an opportunity to carve out additional space for taxiways, which “reduces delays that people associate with LGA,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the airport’s landlord. Additionally, the roads within the airport were widened. And some local officials also expressed hope that a much-delayed plan to build a dedicated rail link to the airport will finally get traction. Donovan Richards, Queens Borough president, said he’s also advocating for ferry service from Manhattan to LaGuardia. “We are only halfway done here,” he said.