Columnists

June 17, 2006

Pigs Fly at New York Airports

Photo by Ron Peel
Photo by Ron Peel
So it has finally happened. What you ask? Well, pigs have flown. I say this because the JD Power Awards are out and both LGA and JFK have received top ratings. LGA in fact was awarded the highest in customer satisfaction for medium sized airports; JFK was ranked second for large airports. I know this must be hard to believe but, yes sir, both JFK and LGA are tops in the country. If they are the top just think how bad LAX must be? So I’m saying to myself, whom did JD Power survey? Well we’ll get to that in a bit.

Lets look at the different categories and I’ll go through them slowly so the same people who rated JFK and LGA as top airports can understand how inept they are.

Photo by Ron Peel

Photo by Ron Peel

First we’ll start with airport accessibility for the two. Both LGA and JFK got top-notch scores in this category. Now as far as JFK goes I can understand…you get a great view in those helicopters operated by U.S Helicopter and a 10 minute commute from Downtown Manhattan can’t be beat, let’s get real folks. Have you ever tried to get to JFK during rush hour? The Burma death march is an easier commute, and then there’s the Van Wyck. As Mike Boyd puts it “Most of these media folks out in the provinces haven’t had the consumer satisfaction of trying to catch a flight and wondering whether the Van Wyck is an expressway, or an experiment in linear parking lots.” Neither one of these airports is easily accessible unless you enjoy sitting in traffic as ten state workers watch one lay down cones to close two lanes of traffic.

Ah yes, modern art is just one of the finer things you find at LGA besides moldy ceilings, ripped seats, bad food, and cramped waiting areas. Ok that was a bit harsh, I’ll admit JFK’s new terminals are rather nice and in then next few years JFK’s terminals will be up to par, but LGA…I don’t even know where to begin. Lets start at the leaking roof in concourse D that has been leaking since December 2005 and as of last June is still leaking in the same spot. It’s ok though they rigged some type of catch system that looks like it belongs in the Met in the abstract art wing. Then comes concourse B, what a train wreck this thing is. God forbid you get delayed and get stuck in there, it’s so small and lacks seating that you are literally shoulder to shoulder with people, I never got so much action in public before. Then the general conditions of the concourses at LGA are deplorable and a shameful sight to guests coming to New York City.

LGA was also rated the top in security and baggage claim. Security at LGA is laughable without question. This past May I was next online to put my bag down on the table so I can get ready to perform my strip tease for the TSA, you know off comes the belt, jacket, and “Airport safe shoes” as the TSA claims they still need to screen for explosives in a machine that doesn’t screen for explosives, better not to ponder that one. Then for no reason Maria comes along and in what I think was English tells me “You go there.” She was pointing to the next line that was 30 to 40 people deep. After a brief exchange, I told Maria “You go there,” and proceeded through the checkpoint. I won’t go into the “dude” manning the baggage screener. Let’s just say he was more interested in the romantic affair he had that Sunday night as he had his feet up comfortably on the machine. I tell you, Mr. President, I feel so much safer now than before 9/11.

Baggage claim at LGA can be fun, too. I’ve stood waiting for luggage longer then my actual flight and then what must simply be entertainment for the airline workers you hear your bags will now be on carousel one, no two, oh no, now it’s three. It’s a sight to watch a hundred people check each other to get to the next carousel all the while your bags are taking laps on the original carousel. I learned after my second business trip out of LGA a long time ago, pack a carry-on.

So how did JD Power come to these conclusions? Well based on my research they surveyed less then 10,000 travelers out of the 700 million that went through JFK last year. I’m not good at math but based on the numbers, that’s less then one percent of the people who use JFK. I can only assume LGA’s figures are very similar.

Let’s face it, JFK and LGA arenot easy airports to use. Everyone in the New York Metro area and even the Port Authority knows this. I will say though while LGA and JFK aren’t easy to use, in the recent years the

Port Authority has tried and with some success to improve these two airports. However you can only do so much with limited resources. Both airports are boxed in and the NIMBYs who for some reason feel since they moved in after the airports were there, the operation of the airports should suffer. New York City needs a new airport with the infrastructure to support it. Let’s stop the debate once and for all and welcome travelers to world-class airports.