LaGuardia Airport - My first flight attendant base!
In my head I can picture them clearly. I see the grubby, dirt-smeared faces of poor European immigrants beaming joyfully at the Statue of Liberty in all her glory as their boat pulls into the harbors of Ellis Island, just beyond the skyline of New York City. This was the arrival for passengers coming to the Big Apple in the early 1900s. Today, the port of arrival for many is LaGuardia Airport, a building that is as grubby and perhaps as down-trodden as the immigrants of old. (Click HERE to hear U.S. Vice President Biden compare LaGuardia’s sad, decaying structure to a “third world country”.)
LaGuardia Airport (LGA) was my first flight attendant base and I worked there for nearly a year. When in uniform (and even in plain clothes), I was often approached by frazzled-looking passengers who needed help navigating their way around LaGuardia. Here are some basic tips I learned from my days working in the Big Apple’s smallest airport.
Please note: LaGuardia is undergoing many renovations. Check the airport’s website HERE for the most up-to-date information. The article below was written in April 2015.
A cockroach in the airport's basement crawling near the mice traps. Gross!
Tip 1. Know Your Terminal Before Arriving at the Airport
“What terminal is Delta?” People driving would slow down their vehicles, roll down their windows, and shout this question at me as the traffic behind them began honking mercilessly. My answer was always, “Delta is in terminals A, C, and D! Good luck!”
LaGuardia's configuration sucks. The terminals are separated and there is no easy way to connect them. You need to know where you’re going. Delta and American/US Airways are located in different terminals and each of those terminals has its own security. And just to make things more confusing, the American flights in terminal B use the D gates and the United Airlines flights (also in terminal B) use the C gates. It really makes no sense.
Basically, here is the breakdown of where your airline might be. It’s best to use a smartphone or computer ahead of time to find out exactly. Read Tip #2 for info on switching terminals.
Terminal A (Marine Air Terminal)
American (C & D Gates)
United (C Gates)
Virgin America (C Gates)
Southwest (B Gates)
Spirit (B Gates)
Air Canada (A Gates)
Frontier (A Gates)
JetBlue (A Gates)
United (A Gates)
Delta / Delta Shuttle
US Airways / American
Tip 2. Connecting to a different terminal? Get on the right bus!
The inter-terminal buses pick up on the lower level at the green shelters that look like this:
There are two buses. Both are notoriously slow during rush hour traffic. (Not that I can blame them.)
Route A – The longer route that loops around Terminal A. This is the only bus that goes to Terminal A.
Route B – The shorter loop that goes to Terminals B, C, and D and the parking lots in between.
The Route A bus takes a good 10-15 minutes extra time to get out to Terminal A so be careful when getting on it. You could waste a lot of time! Check out the map below.
EXAMPLES: Notice how the buses run in the same direction. If you are at Terminal B and you need to get to Terminal D, it would be faster to wait for the Route B bus. Do NOT take the Route A bus. If, however, you are at Terminal D and headed toward Terminal B, you can take either Route A or B because you would get off Route A before it makes the long jog to Terminal A. Confused yet?
American / US Airways Passengers! There is/was a special bus that connected passengers between Terminals B and C. I'm not sure if it's still running. Check with a representative from your airline.
Tip 3. Consider walking between Terminals B and C.
Is it faster to walk or wait for the bus? I spent many days “racing” the bus to see which was faster. It’s a tough call. The walk can take around 15 minutes if you are leaving from the East end of Terminal B and headed toward C. The sidewalk isn’t great and the walkway isn’t covered.
My golden rule for deciding to walk was always this:
- I must have less than two bags with me.
- I must be unhindered by children. (Better to walk solo!)
- The weather must be reasonably comfortable.
- The traffic needs to be crawling at a snail’s pace.
- I need to be wearing decent shoes. (Sidewalk is terrible for anyone wearing heels.)
Tip 4. Keep Your Baggage Claim Ticket!
Baggage claim is located on the lower level. Just take the escalator or elevator downstairs. (Who am I kidding? Those are both broken so go find the stairs.)
To find the carousel with your checked bags, check the monitors. Look for your inbound destination to see which carousel will have your checked bags. (If you came in from Oklahoma City, you need to look for Oklahoma City NOT New York City. Everyone is in New York City, dummy.)
Unfortunately, LaGuardia’s baggage claim has been targeted by thieves. Whenever bags start to go missing, the security heightens. They have a very “sophisticated” security measure. You must show your baggage claim receipt to an airport employee who stands near the exit and compares your receipt with the bag's tag. The baggage claim receipt is often a white sticker with a barcode that the gate agent sticks to the back of your boarding pass. If you don’t have your receipt....I have no clue what happens. If you find out, write me in the comments below!
Tip 5. Head to the city! Taxis waiting outside Terminal B.
Were you supposed to connect to Detroit?
Forget about it! Go visit New York instead! It’s the busiest, most energy-filled city you’ll ever experience. All city-bound transportation is located on the lower level.
Lower level. They are everywhere! All the yellow cabs are metered which mean they charge the same amount of money. That rate can change depending on how long you sit in traffic, but it should cost around $40 with tip.
The NYC Airporter is a shuttle bus that will take you to JFK Airport, Newark, or downtown Manhattan. You can purchase tickets online or on the lower level from the NYC Airporter employees. (Look for their branded shirts and jackets.) Check out their website for rates. Don’t plan on the shuttle running on time. It was always late when I used it!
Want to be a local? Try New York’s MTA. Go to the lower level and look for a kiosk machine to purchase your Metro rail card. You need a credit or debit card to make this purchase. No cash. Otherwise, if you can buy a one-way fare using EXACT change on the bus. (The driver will NOT break a bill for you.)
Check out the MTA’s website HERE for rates.
The easiest way to get to Manhattan is to take the Q70 bus to Roosevelt / Jackson Heights and then catch the Manhattan-bound E train on the blue line. :)
More questions about New York City's LaGuardia Airport? Write me a question in the comments below and I'll try my best to answer!
"Must be willing to work holidays." Every flight attendant job application will include these words in bold font. There's no getting around it. If you're going to be in the airline business, you're going to miss family gatherings. It's unfortunate, but someone has to be there to help other people get to their loved ones.
Growing up, my family hardly ever celebrated holidays on their calendar date. With dad working as an airline pilot, we learned to be flexible. We might celebrate Christmas the weekend before or even as late as the first week of January. We couldn't reschedule the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but our Thanksgiving meal featuring mom's delicious cooking and our cousin's famous mashed potatoes - that we could rearrange for a time when my father was home. The only celebration we couldn't reschedule was the 4th of July. (The city's fire marshal wasn't keen to let us shoot fireworks weeks well past our country's Independence Day celebration.)
Now I'm grown up and married and somehow being away on the holidays is much, much harder than I expected. The holidays don't stop or rearrange themselves when I'm gone. There is enormous guilt in knowing that your loved one will be home alone going to Easter church services or that your spouse is unwrapping gifts Christmas Eve with his family while you're stuck doing a Miami turn. Working on the holidays is certainly one of the LEAST glamorous parts of being a flight attendant.
Below is a photo journal of the working holidays I've taken since beginning my career as a flight attendant almost a year and a half ago.
I hope you all had a blessed Easter this past Sunday!
Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
~ Jenn Grahams
I got stuck with in Washington D.C. with an afternoon Chicago turn assignment. In the morning, I went to a church service before heading out. I found these beautiful cherry blossoms on my way to the church!
Easter 2015. Cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.
I was assigned a two day trip with a San Diego layover. My co-worker and I decorated the beverage cart with Christmas lights. :) Unfortunately, I can't post any pictures of myself in uniform, but here are a few snapshots from that trip.
The galley flight attendant who used the aircraft prior to me was nice enough to leave a fully stocked insert. :)
My sister-in-law left me a delicious post-Christmas dinner in the fridge! She even had it gift wrapped for me!
I had a pretty amazing three day trip with a LONG layovers in Miami, Florida and Vancouver, Canada! Since Canada's Thanksgiving is celebrated on a different date than in the United States, all businesses were open! My co-worker and I splurged for a delicious steak dinner on the water at the Flying Beaver Bar & Grill
Thanksgiving 2014 in Vancouver!
This was a very depressing day for me. I was stuck in New York City at my crashpad sitting "on reserve" which basically meant the only reason I couldn't go home was because I was the "back up" flight attendant on call. I wasn't even assigned a trip. My flatmate tried to cheer me up by buying me some chocolates. :)
Easter 2014 at my crashpad in New York City
I was on reserve in New York City, but I had company! My dad snagged a NYC layover and my mother and sister flew in standby so we were able to spend the day together! We attended an amazing Christmas Day church service at the Korean Church of Queens
. Even though the songs were sung in Korean, we could recognize the tunes of the classics such as "O' Come All Ye Faithful" and "Joy to the World". Also, the pastor included a translation of his sermon on PowerPoint slides. In was actually a really amazing experience! That night we visited the Christmas market in Bryant Park!
Christmas 2013 - Korean Church of Queens in NYC
Christmas 2013 - Empire State Building in New York City