LaGuardia’s perennial madness

Last weekend my wife and I had the misfortune to fly in and out of New York LaGuardia Airport to visit friends. It was an ugly reminder how overcrowded and stressed LGA remains. Heck, flying there sucked in the 70s, and nothing has changed in almost five decades. Sheer madness of sloppy operations utterly free of customer care remains the rule.

The flying part of arriving wasn’t too bad because it was an early morning departure from RDU. LGA flight operations get a reset every night, and we landed around the inflated schedule time. Once on the ground, though, we needed to get into Manhattan from Queens, and using public transit from LaGuardia Airport in the nation’s biggest city is a challenge.

First, we had to pick our way through the construction mess to find the right bus stop (Q70 SBS).  Then wait (in the rain) for a bus that ought to come every 10-15 minutes, but comes only twice an hour.  When the bus finally arrived, it was already jam-packed, and was rushed by a gaggle of people. It only boarded by the center door (the driver refused to open the front door).

The joy and serenity of the over-capacity bus from LGA to the subway stop

People scrunched in until we couldn’t move, and still some people were left behind—and rightly angry—and that was only at Delta (Terminal C).  The bus was supposed to stop at American, but it was pointless because it was already beyond capacity.  It lumbered along for 20 minutes or so until finally disgorging almost everyone at the Roosevelt Ave subway stop.

Developing nations do a better job of airport public transit than New York.  It was absurd.

Flying out a few days later was worse, however.  The temperature was a searing 100 degrees as we arrived before 2:00 PM for our 4:30 PM departure to Raleigh.  After getting through the TSA PRE security screen, we rushed to the gate of a 2:30 PM departure to see if two seats were available.  Not a chance in mid-summer, so we waited in the over-crowded Delta SkyClub to wait for our 4:30 PM flight.

Well, it was scheduled to depart at 4:30 PM.  After a 40 minute delay for the inbound aircraft trying to taxi to gate D06 after landing, the plane was emptied, boarded, and the boarding door closed at 4:51 PM.

The joy and serenity of waiting to board at the Delta LGA D gates

Then we sat at gate D06 until 5:10 PM due to the long line waiting to takeoff with no room in the queue for additional outbound flights.

We eventually taxied and arrived at the end of takeoff line at 5:18 PM. I was disheartened to see that the takeoff queue wrapped around the perpendicular landing runway apron in a loop with at least 40 aircraft ahead of us. I thought how insane the airport was to over-schedule.

At 5:37 PM we finally made it to old AA hangars next to the landing runway. Our pilot announced a minimum one hour taxi delay for all LGA outbound flights and that ATC has stopped his filed air traffic route to RDU, so was waiting for an alternate route as we sat in the slow conga line of airplanes.

The all-too-familiar sight of the interminable LGA takeoff queue

From Karachi, er, that is, I mean, LaGuardia, we were finally off the ground at 5:51 PM (scheduled departure from the gate 4:30 PM), and we landed RDU at 6:58 PM, though an incompetent Delta jet bridge operator delayed us further, and we didn’t leave the terminal until 7:16 PM.

The horror of LGA was a reminder of all the bad flying juju that haunted me for decades. I needed a drink! Maybe two.

So, at last en route in a Delta Comfort+ seat, with LaGuardia thankfully disappearing in the rear view mirror, I asked for two G&Ts to relax.

But I couldn’t even get a double gin and tonic. The Delta flight attendant said he only had one more gin and wouldn’t give it to me.

Whaaaat???!! You won’t give me a double because you only had two in your cart? Even though I paid to be in Comfort+?

I looked up into First Class immediately in front of us, and they were being served all the drinks they wanted.

You know, that’s the airline’s problem. After waiting in misery on the runway at LGA, and with five million miles on Delta, and having paid to be in Comfort+ which proclaims that it comes with free drinks, I could not even get a second mini-bottle?

That’s not cool.

What if I’d said to Delta when I made the reservation that I couldn’t quite pay everything they wanted for the second fare because my wallet didn’t have enough money right then?

But, no, of course I paid what they demanded.

So they cheat me on the back end out of a lousy stinking mini-bottle of booze?

It’s the nickel-dime stuff like this that drives me absolutely bonkers.  Especially after enduring the hell that is and always has been LaGuardia.

4 thoughts on “LaGuardia’s perennial madness

  1. Dear Will — I live in New York and always tell people NOT to use LaGuardia under any circumstances. Until this construction nightmare is over (and maybe even then) it is hell on earth. You are much better advised to fly into Newark and take the bus to the Port Authority terminal at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue. From there you can take a bus or subway train to your destination. If you are visiting someone in Queens, this may seem like the long way around, but may be shorter in the long run and certainly less aggravating.
    Joann Lamb

  2. Hi Mr. Allen – you should try renting a car at LaGuardia. I fly in to terminal B – the new part, yea! – then walk in to the old part (as you may know, they are creating a new LaGuardia by building where the old one is). I then go outside to find the right shuttle bus (in my case, a Blue Route bus); if I had a checked bag, I would have to go downstairs to get my bag then go back up stairs (where the check-in lines are for the airlines) to catch the right bus. And like your bus, the Blue Route bus is almost always filled to standing room only.

    The Blue Route bus takes me to Terminal A – the marine terminal. There, I step off that bus and find the shuttle bus for my rental car company. That second shuttle takes me to the lot where my rental car is waiting for me.

    And yes, I have to reverse this when it is time to leave NYC, And yes, this can add 30 to 60 minutes to my leaving and returning.

  3. Five million miles on Delta and you didn’t get an automatic upgrade to Comfort+ (which in itself implies the other seats are Comfort-)? That demonstartion that loyalty works only in one direction with Delta is why I’ve given up my loyalty to Delta and fly on whichever airline has the best schedule and prices for my intended trip. Even as a Diamond Medallion flier, it was very rare for me to get any upgrades worth talking about although a couple of times they sent a Porsche SUV to pick me up when I landed and shuttle me across the tarmac to my connecting flight. That was a weird experience.

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