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LaGuardia, Newark earn recognition for terminals in sign of transformation

Two of the largest airports in the New York City area have come away with significant recognition in recent days, reflecting the major transformations passengers have witnessed at both LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

On Tuesday, Newark’s new Terminal A became one of only two terminals in North America to receive a five-star rating from aviation industry ratings firm Skytrax. The rating came after a detailed audit of the terminal’s facilities, operations and customer service.

It’s a significant accolade for the $2.7 billion, 1 million-square-foot terminal, which opened in phases over the last 15 months with all-new gates, concourses and a host of lounges — including perhaps the nicest in United Airlines’ network.

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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey called the rating a “global benchmark of airport excellence.”

 “We’re delivering world-class facilities that befit this world-class region,” Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton said in a statement Tuesday.

The news comes just days after LaGuardia received a best-in-class ranking of its own.

LaGuardia’s improvements recognized

laguardia airport

Last week, Airports Council International released its 2023 airport service quality awards and gave LaGuardia a top ranking among North American facilities serving 25 to 40 million passengers annually.

The survey accounted for passenger experience factors like overall ambience, cleanliness, security screening, dining facilities and the comfort of gate areas — many of which, frequent LaGuardia passengers know, did not excel until recent years.

It’s a “stunning reversal of fortunes,” acknowledged the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — one that arose from scores on passenger surveys up some 20% from 2018, five years earlier.

“We transformed [LaGuardia] into a world-class travel hub worthy of New York — it’s no surprise it’s soaring high,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a March 11 post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Indeed, ACI’s top ranking for LaGuardia followed that airport’s significant $8 billion redevelopment in recent years.

Those changes led to an entirely new passenger experience for Delta Air Lines passengers in Terminal C. The same goes for Terminal B, where American Airlines operates its LaGuardia hub alongside a handful of other carriers.


“Those terminals are state-of-the-art — big, beautiful, light airy, with the retail we take for granted today at airports,” Shea Oakley, a commercial aviation historian based in New Jersey, said. “From a passenger terminal experience, LaGuardia has now been completely transformed and they’ve done a great job.”

LaGuardia’s progress has even caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who infamously once likened the airport’s facilities to that of a “third-world country.”

“It’s turning into a world-class airport again,” Biden acknowledged in 2022 remarks amid the administration’s infrastructure push.

More changes coming

Likely the biggest changes planned for New York area airports are in the works at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

The region’s biggest international hub is getting two brand-new terminals: 1 and 6. They are both multi-billion dollar facilities that will begin welcoming passengers in 2026 as part of phased openings.

That construction comes in the wake of significant investments by Delta and American into overhauls of JFK terminals 4 and 8, respectively.

Altogether, it’s a significant shift for the region’s airports. They have long carried a lot of flights but with limited fanfare for the passenger experience.

“From a landside customer service standpoint, it’s a complete turnaround,” Oakley said.

Still, he predicts that the heavily constrained airspace around New York (exacerbated by air traffic control challenges) and the limited space on the ground for additional construction means some of the operational challenges — like flight delays — may persist for years to come.

“On the aeronautical side at all three airports, there’s not a lot more they can do with it,” Oakley offered. “But while you’re perhaps waiting for your delayed flight, you’re going to be in a much larger, more comfortable, more modern facility than you were.”

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