LaGuardia smells like a used car filled with old Cinnabon bags. It’s New York’s second-busiest airport (behind John F. Kennedy International), and yet there’s no convenient way to get there by mass transit. The floors are scuffed. The carpets are stained. Some of the bathroom stalls don’t have working locks. Just this month, a runway was struck by lightning, and brown water poured out of a ceiling. Each year it serves about 28 million people through a hodgepodge of terminals that seem to be perpetually under construction. During a 2015 speech about infrastructure, then-Vice President Joe Biden told a Philadelphia audience, “If I blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you must think, I must be in some Third World country.” People laughed. “I’m not joking,” Biden said. People laughed some more.
I don’t know why, though. LaGuardia is my favorite airport. I want one thing from an airport: to get me to my gate as quickly as possible. LaGuardia, dilapidated hellhole that it is, is pretty good for this. “I can get to the airport 41 minutes before my flight and be fine. That’s impossible at most big-city airports,” says Brian Kelly, founder of the Points Guy website, which offers money- and time-saving air travel tips. Kelly’s good fortune is a result of those terminals, which spread out fliers instead of funneling them through a central departure point.