LaGuardia Prepares for Hectic Holiday Travel

In front of La Guardia Terminal D at 4:40 p.m. (The Ink/Sana Ali)
In front of La Guardia Terminal D at 4:40 p.m. on Saturday. (The Ink/Sana Ali)

The peak Thanksgiving travel season started Nov. 16 and that is likely to snarl traffic at LaGuardia Airport, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This year, construction at La Guardia Airport is likely to make things worse.

But on Saturday, many people who were waiting to pick up family members were pleasantly surprised.

“It’s like the calm before the storm,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA New York. “Everyday as we get close to the holiday, it will pick up.”

He predicted that the construction will significantly increase the traditional holiday congestion. “We’ve got an extra added problem at La Guardia with the expansion of the airport taking place,” he said. “There is a lot of demolition taking place right now on existing parking lots in front of the main arrivals terminal and because of that, there has been a lot of rerouting on the internal roadways and moving them around and has led to some severe traffic jams.”

Sinclair said that when the traffic gets really bad on the eastbound Grand Central Parkway near the airport, some passengers abandon their taxis and drag their bags across the highway ramp to get to their flights.

Yet on Saturday, drivers saw no more than the usual traffic getting in and out of the airport.

Pat Mccumber, 65, drove in from Long Island in the evening to pick her daughter and grandsons who were arriving from Tennessee for the holidays. It took her about an hour and 20 minutes to get to La Guardia, she said, which is how long it usually takes. She said the traffic had been a lot worse at other times.

Steve Baker, 60, was at the airport in the afternoon to pick up his wife, who was arriving from Florida. He found a place to park his car between Terminal B and Terminal C.  “The game is you have to find a spot,” he said. “I’m happy I found this little spot.”

Walk way between Terminal B and Terminal C and D during the evening. (The Ink/Sana Ali)
The walkway between Terminal B and Terminal C and D during the evening. (The Ink/Sana Ali)

La Guardia has shuttle buses that run between the terminals. Chris Paul, 30, is a conductor on the bus that runs the ‘Purple Route’ between Terminals B, C and D. “Today is quiet,” he said. “Saturday is good. Sunday is a lot of traffic. Today is good, very rare.”

Eliza Sanchez, 28, a customer service representative for the Port Authority’s welcome center in Terminal B, said that Paul’s route  normally takes 15 minutes but because of the construction, “it could take up to 40 minutes.”

Sanchez is stationed near the stop for shuttle buses to Manhattan and other areas in New York. She said she tells customers that they may wait up to half an hour for a shuttle, which takes about an hour to get to midtown.

One of the shuttle services that runs between La Guardia Airport and Manhattan is the Super Shuttle. Luis Beltran, dispatch manager, said LaGuardia construction wasn’t the only reason why traffic could be difficult in the coming week. “We’ve been actually experiencing heavy volumes of traffic right after the elections due to street closures due to protest,” he said, “plus holiday traffic is more traffic than usual. A lot more.” Beltran said that the Super Shuttle is advising “travelers to give themselves at least an extra hour.”

Sinclair from the AAA said that traffic at La Guardia Airport is usually worse than at JFK Airport . “Joe Biden was right it’s a third-world airport,” he said, referring to the vice president’s controversial 2014 description of LaGuardia.