Gilbert Sror was a flight manager for decades, crisscrossing the planet with Israeli carrier El Al — managing 20-person crews, navigating on-board crises including, over the course of his career, eight passengers who fell dead mid-flight of natural causes.
Sror, 69, has chased down luggage, searched for taxis and waited for return flights in airports from Chicago (very good) to Madrid (pretty bad).
But no airport brings a scowl to his face like LaGuardia.
It’s “dirty,” a “maze” and extremely confusing, he said. Compared to efficient Ben Gurion International Airport where he was based: “like the moon and the earth.”
The only way to deal with the airport that Vice President Joe Biden has likened to a third-world country: “Do yourself a favor. When you land, don’t think anything. Just go to the exit.”
If only we could; or even just hold our nose and get to the gate. A report released Wednesday by Global Gateway Alliance, an advocacy group of business and labor leaders, found that LaGuardia ranked last among the nation’s 29 busiest airports in terms of on-time performance, surprising absolutely no one.
When it comes to airports, we’re not used to having the best
As we head into yet another holiday season, it seems unlikely that LaGuardia will surprise us. Only the bold among us will venture to Queens to try our luck at the people’s airport.
LaGuardia’s low of 73 percent on-time flights was followed right on the tail by Kennedy and Newark airports, 26th and 28th, respectively.
The report places most of the blame for the typical delays on New York’s busy airspace. New Federal Aviation Administration technology could eventually improve that poor record.
There are other changes afoot for the airport, which opened in 1939. In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a five-year reconstruction, an estimated $8 billion plan to rebuild Terminal B and create a new entry hall among other changes. The redesign is purported to help plane conditions — more space for planes to maneuver — as well as passenger conditions, with better terminals and some air train and ferry service expansions to make getting to your flight a little easier.
The Port Authority has said things will get worse before they get better. But for now, as expected, construction continues to snarl traffic.
The airport we love to hate
It’s a local pastime to dump on the airport-that-often-can’t — the real sport is finding new angles of attack. That includes the “outrageous” lines at security, says Rheem Araj, 36, of Queens. “The food options aren’t great.”
And the confusing layout, made worse by current construction, says Alex Olivier, of Poughkeepsie. It’s “outdated, run-down,” says Olivier, 64.
For many, however, current conditions are just business as usual at the airport, which was never much better, never much worse. “It fits into the DMV,” says Kevin Christopher, 39, of Queens. Christopher, who used to run a business designing holiday windows for large stores, often made the New York-to-L.A. jump through LaGuardia.
He became accustomed to the delays — “almost every time. You know that going in.”
Sometimes, there will be what Christopher calls “beyond delays,” when you might wait three hours or a day.
Either way, you know the waiting experience will include “no frills.”
Christopher adopts a zen approach. Embarking from LaGuardia is not the beginning of one of the trans-oceanic voyages of history — the trip won’t take a year and you won’t risk communicable diseases. You’ll get where you’re going. He tries another analogy:
“You’re not going to go to McDonald’s and ask for filet mignon,” he says. “It’s just McDonald’s.”