At LaGuardia, JetBlue and Alaska Customers Win in the Temporary Terminal Shuffle

You don’t need me to tell you that New York’s LaGuardia Airport sucks. If you’ve been even remotely near the place, you haven’t had a good experience. While long-term improvement is slowly happening, a band of airlines recently got together to . The funny thing is that the airlines who orchestrated this, American and Delta, are the ones who actually end up with either the same or a slightly worse experience. It’s the others who really benefit.

This new plan is simply a bunch of airlines shuffling places. It’s not going to magically eliminate delays, widen the insanely narrow concourses, fix roadway traffic, improve public transit, or put more lounges behind security. That (well, except the “delay” and “public transit” parts) will be solved when the new terminal opens in 2417 (only 400 years to go!). But this shuffling can happen much sooner, in just over a month, actually. Here’s what’s happening on December 9:

For those who oddly prefer bullet points to awful photoshopping…

  • Alaska – moves from Terminal B (Central Terminal Area) to Terminal A (Marine Air Terminal)
  • American – moves the old US Airways operation from Terminal C to join the rest of American in Terminal B
  • Delta – moves the DC and Chicago shuttles from Terminal A to Terminals C/D with the rest of the operation
  • Frontier – moves from Terminal B to Terminals C/D
  • JetBlue – moves from Terminal B to Terminal A
  • Spirit – moves from Terminal B to Terminals C/D

I know what you’re asking… so what? Well, some people will be really happy with this. Others won’t. Let’s take a look.

Big Winners – Alaska and JetBlue
Both these airlines move from the overcrowded Central Terminal Area (B) to the quiet Marine Air Terminal (A). Is the Marine Air Terminal something amazing? Well, , but that’s mostly for show. The gates, which were slapped on years later, are nothing special, but they are coveted. It’s easy to move in and out of that terminal as a traveler. Most importantly, you can avoid the gridlocked roads that touch the other terminals.

Alaska may not care all that much. (By the way, you may be asking… since when does Alaska fly to LaGuardia? Remember the Virgin America purchase. There are a handful of flights a day to Dallas.) Sure this might make it more attractive than American or Southwest for those heading to Dallas, but then again, I doubt it’ll move the needle much.

For JetBlue, however, it’s great. The biggest issue is that there’s no real baggage system there, and for all those JetBlue travelers heading to Florida, that’s a big problem. This will be fixed before move-in. Most importantly, JetBlue has its fledgling shuttle to Boston. No Boston shuttle had been operating from the Marine Air Terminal since Delta moved those flights out a few years ago, but this will make JetBlue’s flights instantly more popular.

Not a Big Change – Frontier and Spirit
Neither of these airlines probably care which terminal they’re in, but you could do a lot worse than Terminals C/D. Check-in is in C while airplanes are at D. That adds a bit of a walk, but it’s not too bad. Someone had to move over there to make enough room in B for American, so these guys were the ones to do it.

Mild Losers – American and Delta
If Delta and American are the ones paying for this, how on earth are they mild losers? Well, let’s start with Delta. Yes, the airline will be able to consolidate operations in one terminal, but travelers on the Chicago and DC shuttles loved the Marine Air Terminal. It was quick and convenient. Delta has been building up LaGuardia as an actual hub for some time, so if anyone was connecting from Chicago or DC through LaGuardia, that involved a bad terminal change. But on those routes, you’d think Delta would be more interested in catering to the locals. Maybe not. It probably thinks that by having those flights in its main terminal, it can provide better lounges, food, etc. The point of the Marine Air Terminal, however, is you didn’t have to be there long enough to care about those things. For most Delta customers, this move means nothing. For the local Chicago and DC shuttle travelers, this is a negative.

Then there’s American. It was not good having legacy American in Terminal B and legacy US Airways in Terminal C. So bringing it all together in Terminal B is better, right? Eh, not so much. Here’s the new gate layout from :

Hmm, that’s weird. Why would there be a shuttle between all the concourses? Oh, it’s because none of them are connected behind security in that archaic building. So connections will still require, in many cases, taking a bus. It may be a shorter bus ride, but it’s still a bus ride. (For employees, however, this is undoubtedly a big improvement.)

Further, the lounge situation gets worse. I’d bet there are more people today vs. in the new plan that can go to a lounge and then walk to their gate. Before there were lounges at the D gates in Terminal B as well as in Terminal C. Now, there will just be the one (probably soon-to-be-overcrowded) lounge at the D gates. Anyone not flying out of D will have to take a bus after leaving the lounge.

It’s not all negative. This should reduce ground traffic on the airside, and at least travelers on every airline will now go to one terminal for each airline no matter where they’re flying. In my mind, this isn’t as great of an improvement as it seems on the surface. We’re really just all biding our time until the new terminal opens up.

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