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OpinionEditorial

Delta Air Lines’ deal is big for the new LaGuardia Airport

Delta Airlines is expanding its presence at LaGuardia

Delta Airlines is expanding its presence at LaGuardia Airport by adding more flights and destinations. (July 22, 2011)

During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump lamented airports in “Third World condition” — a clear riff on what Vice President Joe Biden said about LaGuardia Airport, the place where Trump often parks his fleet.

But LaGuardia is quickly moving toward a future when that label won’t apply.

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled plans to remake LaGuardia Airport a year ago, significant details remained open. Now a big one — whether Delta Air Lines would participate in the airport makeover — was answered last week. Under a new agreement, Delta will turn its two old terminals, known as C and D, into one new one located closer to the Grand Central Parkway and connected with LaGuardia’s new central hall. The airline will be responsible for $3 billion of the cost, with the state providing a $600 million, mostly toward infrastructure like roadways, parking and an electrical substation.

The deal is good for Delta, which hopes for revenue gains from more retail and restaurant options and increases in the number of passengers. It’s good for those flying into and out of LaGuardia. But it’s great for New York. The state is contributing just a sixth of the cost, and Delta is responsible for construction and cost overruns.

Now that construction plans are set, Delta and the Port Authority have to agree on a long-term lease for the new terminal, including revenue sharing terms. All of this was done without giving Delta any guarantees that the Port Authority, which operates the airport, would change the perimeter rule, which could allow cross-country flights at LaGuardia. Nonetheless, the time has come for this change.

Now we know LaGuardia will get a full makeover, though we still don’t know whether an AirTrain from Willets Point will become a reality. Construction will begin with the parking lots, but the worst of the traffic detours have yet to start. Clear communication between the Port Authority and the public will be key. But each step is one closer to a moment when Trump, Biden and all of us can land at a First World LaGuardia.

— The editorial board

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