Because It’s Not Jammed Enough, La Guardia May Add a Bunch of Long-Distance Flights to Pay for Renovations

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A far call from the hellscape we've got on our hands now.

The Port Authority’s extreme makeover of La Guardia Airport is coming in way over budget — The Wall Street Journal reports the redesign, estimated in 2014 to cost $3.6 billion, is now coming in at $4.2 billion — and now the agency is looking at ways to make up the difference. One of which is packing more and longer flights into its already-choked schedule.

Right now, a 1984 regulation called the “perimeter rule” means that flights to destinations more than 1,500 miles away are permitted from only JFK and Newark. (You can’t fly direct to Seattle or Los Angeles from La Guardia; there’s an exception for Denver, which is 1,600 miles away, and for Saturday trips.) Lifting the perimeter rule would allow airlines at La Guardia to get in on longer flights with higher fares and more passengers. Never mind that delays at La Guardia are the worst in the country — nearly a quarter of its flights are late — and adding a bunch more routes sounds like a recipe for misery.

Delta, which flies about 40 percent of La Guardia’s passengers, vigorously supports scrapping the rule. Perhaps unsurprisingly, airlines like JetBlue and United, which operate out of JFK and Newark, are not so thrilled, saying it would “add an additional layer of traffic” and increase competition around New York City’s airspace. The Port Authority’s testing out what would happen if the perimeter rule were dropped, and its decision is due in the fall. (Dallas’s Love Field abandoned its perimeter rule in 2014, to much praise.)

New York City renovations of every kind tend to take longer and cost more than anyone expects, and airports are certainly no exception. The new cost estimates are primarily based on design changes to the renovation of the airport’s Central Terminal Building (a.k.a. Terminal B) and a new hall connecting it to the rest of the airport. In the redesign, the decrepit Terminal B from the mid-’60s will have dedicated space for security screenings and retail as well as a hotel. It is expected to open in 2021, and you probably shouldn’t count on it happening on time either.