- Delta Air Lines is two years ahead of schedule on its new terminal construction at New York's LaGuardia Airport.
- A new arrivals and departures hall, the largest-ever Delta Sky Club, and the second of four concourses concourse will open in spring 2022.
- The 1.3 million-square-foot terminal will feature 37 gates when complete in 2024.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
During the pandemic alone LaGuardia saw the addition of a new Terminal B arrivals and departures hall, as well as a new American Express Centurion Lounge.
But just a few hundred feet away from Terminal B, the largest carrier at LaGuardia is getting ready to unveil the first stage of a new terminal of its own.
Delta Air Lines has been constructing a replacement for its existing Terminals D and C at LaGuardia. While not yet passenger-ready, the airline is estimating that work is 80% complete with the opening of the arrivals and departures hall and the second of four concourses slated for spring 2022.
Insider went behind the scenes at LaGuardia’s soon-to-be newest terminal that’s priced at $3.9 billion. Here’s what travelers can expect.
Our tour of the new started with a glimpse of the old: the 1980s era Terminal D that Delta has called home at LaGuardia since its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2007.
It’s a far cry from Delta’s more modern hubs in Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and even just down the road at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Despite the space constraints for which LaGuardia is infamous, Delta will come away with a single terminal that’s more than double the size of its existing two buildings. Terminal C will cover 1.3 million square feet compared to the combined 650,000 square feet of Terminals C and D.
The extra square footage gives Delta 37 jetway-equipped gated as opposed to 29 jetway gates and four remote gates between the two existing terminals.
The COVID-19 pandemic allowed Delta to speed up construction on the $3.9 billion terminal, moving up the timeline from mid-2026 to the end of 2024.
Construction never stopped during the pandemic, not even during our visit. Delta is the general contractor on the project, allowing the airline to work directly with contractors and labor unions for more hands-on direction.
“This terminal is going to be extremely sophisticated with beautiful finishes,” Ryan Marzullo, Delta’s managing director, New York construction, told reporters. And part of that sophistication is making it easier for travelers to check-in and head straight to the security checkpoint.
“Everywhere you enter the building, you can check-in, you can drop your bag, and go straight to the checkpoint,” Marzullo said.
Two roadways on the departures level will let travelers choose how they enter the terminal. No matter where passengers are dropped off, however, they’ll have access to full-service and self-service kiosks.
Once in the terminal, the security screening checkpoint is located on the third floor. It’s the highest point in the terminal that passengers will go to unless they have Sky Club lounge access or want to use the planned outdoor space.
Large LED screens above the security screening checkpoint will help illuminate the terminal, undoubtedly with branding, messaging, and advertising.
The consolidated security checkpoint below will feature 11 screening lanes, including dedicated lanes for the TSA’s PreCheck program.
While there will technically be fewer lanes than in both current terminals combined, Delta is investing in new screening technology to quickly process passengers. Clear biometric kiosks will also be available for enrolled passengers to use.
After security, passengers will have a large open space in which they can reassemble their belongings before heading to the gate. They’ll also be greeted by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the tarmac below.
Before heading to the gates, eligible passengers will have the option of ascending to the Delta Sky Club through a mix of escalators and elevators located immediately after the security checkpoint.
The Sky Club will be the largest in Delta’s network, a title that currently belongs to the airline’s Salt Lake City location, offering passengers more than 30,000 square feet of food, drinks, and armchairs while waiting for a flight.
Two full-service bars and food service areas will be available to passengers to prevent congestion and make it easier for passengers to access food and drink regardless of where they’re sitting. Salt Lake City has a similar setup.
Two outdoor patios will be available once the terminal is complete. One will be available to Sky Club patrons while the other will be open to all passengers.
Depending on when they open, the outdoor patios may be the only outdoor space at LaGuardia. Terminal B has plans to create an outdoor area but that hasn’t yet come to fruition.
Smart glass also prevents the need for window shades as it automatically tints, preventing heat from moving through the glass and warming the lounge and terminal.
This won’t be the only Sky Club at the airport, however, as another location will be available in one of the concourses.
Down below, Delta is working to solve the problem of aircraft congestion on the terminal’s taxi lanes and alleyways.
Dual taxi lanes will be constructed in between concourses. Multiple planes can be taxing in and out of an alleyway without having to stop and wait if, say, one aircraft is still pushing back from its gate.
But beyond just the pure number of flights, the key factor for Delta is to increase the size of aircraft operating in and out of LaGuardia.
Aircraft as large as the Boeing 767 will be able to use the terminal but the gates are intended for aircraft as large as the Airbus A321 and Boeing 737-900ER. All gates can accommodate the 737-900ER while more than half can accommodate the A321.
Two gates can accommodate a Boeing 767, which is really in the event of an unscheduled diversion as LaGuardia doesn’t currently see any aircraft larger than an A321 on a regular basis.
The terminal will also have de-icing capabilities, allowing Delta aircraft to reduce winter delays. And there will be no tow-in gates, where aircraft have to be literally towed into a gate instead of using their own power.
At the time of our visit in August, Delta was operating 133 daily departures to 51 destinations and planning to grow to more than 150 daily departures in September.
The maximum number of flights Delta can fly in and out of LaGuardia per its slot agreement is 275. The new terminal is more than capable of handling that number.
Delta and Canada’s WestJet will also be the only two airlines using the new terminal. Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines are planning to move back to Terminal B once construction is completed there.
Back inside the terminal, passengers exiting or not visiting the Sky Club will either go left or right down a connector hallway to their concourse after clearing security.
Marzullo said that from the curb to the furthest gate is only a 12 to 15-minute walk, plus the time it takes to clear security. Walking to closer gates is only a 5 to 7-minute walk.
Underneath the security checkpoint level is a long service corridor that runs the length of the terminal. Passengers will never see it.
Delta affectionately refers to it as the “Disneyland” as it’s intended for workers to move across the terminal without being seen by passengers.
What customers also won’t see is the maze of conveyor belts feeding checked luggage through security scanners and eventually onto cars where they’ll be brought to awaiting aircraft.
Walkway bridges will meet both ends of the connector hallway to unite the headhouse with the concourses. Moving walkways will be available in each direction.
Aircraft cannot, however, taxi under these walkway bridges as they can at Terminal B. Delta is focusing on dual taxi lanes instead to reduce congestion.
Each concourse will have a variety of dining options, with eateries like Starbucks already lined up.
The final step for departing passengers is descending into the concourse where departure gates await.
Travelers can already get a glimpse at what to expect from the new terminal as the first of four concourses has already opened. Concourse G, as it’s known.
Delta plans to use Concourse G primarily for shuttle flights to Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC.
Just like in Terminal B, passengers arrive in the terminal quite high up and work their way up before eventually descending to the gates. Check-in is on level two, security checkpoint is on level three, the Sky Club is on level four, and the gates are on level two.
Those visiting the Sky Club on the highest level of the terminal will have ascended at a height of between 80 and 90 feet before heading back down nearly to ground level.
Controlling aircraft movements will be a virtual ramp tower located in Concourse F as part of an integrated command center. Ramp controllers will use cameras to monitor aircraft, which Delta says will give them a better view of the airfield than they have currently.
A station for the proposed LaGuardia Airport AirTrain is not currently included in construction plans and likely won’t make its debut next year. But that doesn’t mean the terminal isn’t planning ahead.
If the LGA AirTrain is approved, a station will be located above a connector between the terminal building and the parking garage. Current construction plans are factoring in that possibility, despite the uncertainty surrounding the project and the recent shift in New York state government.
The remaining concourse will open over the next three years as Delta looks to complete construction by the end of 2024.
If all goes to plan, LaGuardia’s infamous chapter will be closed by 2025.