I used one of the worst airports in the US when I went home for the holidays — here’s what it was like

I counted five garbage cans that were used to catch water dripping from the ceiling in Terminal B.

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I counted five garbage cans that were used to catch water dripping from the ceiling in Terminal B.
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Mark Matousek / Business Insider

  • LaGuardia has a reputation for being one of the worst airports in the US.
  • When I used the airport to go home for the holidays, I noticed it was dirty, cramped, and poorly lit.
  • The airport is undergoing significant renovations over the next few years.

While innovators like Elon Musk want to reinvent American transportation with self-driving cars, supersonic jets, and flying Ubers, our current transportation infrastructure needs some work.

Airports, in particular, have struggled to keep up with an increasing demand for air travel. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the American aviation industry a “D” grade in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card.

“Progress at the nation’s airports and in the air traffic control system is slow, as investment has been consistently lagging in the past 18 years, unable to keep up with demands of increased traffic and new technologies,” the report said.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport has a reputation for being one of the worst airports in the US. A 2016 study of over 36,000 travelers by J.D. Power found that respondents were less satisfied with their experiences at LaGuardia than at any other large or medium airport in North America. While renovations to the airport’s terminals, parking system, and drop-off and pick-up areas are underway, the airport is cramped, poorly-lit, and dirty in its current state.

I used LaGuardia when I flew home to Chicago for the holidays and realized why its reputation is so horrible.

Here’s what I saw.


Construction for the renovations began in 2016, and for the moment, it made the airport look like even more of an eyesore.

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The pick-up and drop-off areas were narrow, and anyone who wanted to take an Uber or Lyft home from the airport had to take a shuttle to a designated pickup area.

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The ticketing area wasn’t a complete mess, but the lighting wasn’t great and the ceilings were low.

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And the unused check-in counters were depressing.

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No one was at the help desk near one of Terminal B’s food courts.

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But the Terminal B food courts themselves weren’t bad. They were more spacious and better lit than much of the airport.

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They had a solid variety of quick options like Five Guys and Einstein Bros Bagels…

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…as well as a sit-down restaurant.

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There was also an option to give the airport feedback on your dining experience.

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The terminal had some interesting shopping options meant to appeal to stylish travelers.

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Though I’ve never understood why high-end clothing brands open stores in airports.

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Things were worse as I got closer to the boarding areas. The entrance to the security checkpoint was built on a downward slope, which isn’t ideal for travelers with rolling luggage.

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Once I got past security, the terminal reached a low point. The hallway was narrow, the ceilings were low, and the food options were mediocre.

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I flew out in the early evening on Christmas Eve, which isn’t a peak travel time…

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…but the terminal was still so cramped that people had to sit on the floor.

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I counted at least five trash cans positioned to catch water dripping from the ceiling.

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One was misplaced, which resulted in a small puddle forming next to it.

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The floors could have used some serious cleaning.

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More frequent garbage collections wouldn’t have hurt either.

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And signs of decay and neglect were pretty common.

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The airlines didn’t have many options to accommodate travelers near the boarding areas, as demonstrated by American Airlines’ “Admirals Club.”

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The food options were also limited.

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There weren’t any sit-down restaurants past security.

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And, like any airport, the food was way too expensive.

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The irony…

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Once I arrived in Chicago, I remembered that most airports in major cities are in much better shape.

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In addition to expanded seating areas and hallways…

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…they have clean floors…

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…much higher ceilings…

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…and decent food options.

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If the renderings of the renovations at LaGuardia were any indication, those features may finally come to New York in the coming years.

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