February 6th, 2014
06:38 PM ET
10 months ago

Biden: LaGuardia like a 'third world country'

(CNN) - New York's LaGuardia airport is notorious for crowded terminals and other constraints that contribute to horrid flight delays. And Vice President Joe Biden doesn't appear to be a big fan.

But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't taking Biden's comments lightly.

At an event in Philadelphia on Thursday, Biden compares the LaGuardia to a "third world country."

"If I blindfolded someone and took them at 2 o'clock in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said 'where do you think you are?' They would say, 'this must be America. This is a modern airport,'" Biden said. "If I took them blindfolded and took them to LaGuardia airport in New York, he would like 'I must be in some third world country.' I'm not joking."

De Blasio called the analogy "inappropriate" and said the vice president's comments were "not his finest moment."

"LaGuardia obviously needs an upgrade, but that being said the airport manages an extraordinary amount of traffic and the people work there make it work under very difficult circumstances," de Blasio said at a press conference on Friday.

"So as a proud New Yorker, I didn't like that comment, and I think it was not the right way to talk about it."

Biden's Hong Kong analogy was a novel, Bidenesque spin on a well-worn Obama administration pitch for more investment in U.S. infrastructure. But it could easily have been a plug for his favorite mode of transportation – the train.

It just so happened that he was speaking at an event to unveil Amtrak's new electric locomotive, where he praised America's only long-haul passenger railroad as vital to transportation along the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

Biden has been riding Amtrak forever, estimating he made 8,000 trips between his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and Washington during his years in the Senate.

"It's hard to imagine what life would be along the corridor without Amtrak. It is not hyperbole to suggest I-95 would be a parking lot."

Underscoring the need for a reinvestment in the nation's infrastructure, Biden highlighted the diminishing stature of its transportation facilities compared with those internationally.

"Just in the last decade the United States has fallen 20 spots when it comes to the quality of infrastructure in America. It's embarrassing and it's stupid. It's stupid. That puts us literally behind. They rank us behind Barbados. Great country, one airport," he said.

"Look folks, not a joke, we need to reinvest and modernize our whole infrastructure, especially in rail," he said.

Ironically, Amtrak competes with airlines that fly out of LaGuardia for business up and down the Northeast Corridor, boasting that its downtown-to-downtown services are more convenient, especially those premium-paying business travelers who – you guessed it – pack LaGuardia on a daily basis.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates LaGuardia, responded to Biden's comments.

"Significant investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs, which is why the Port Authority this week proposed a 10-year $27 billion capital plan that creates more than 126,000 jobs and invests $8 billion in modernizing the region's airports," it said in a statement.

"We are fast-tracking efforts that have lagged for more than a decade and investing $3.6 billion through an innovative public-private partnership to build a new Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport that will provide passengers with a world-class terminal," it said.


Filed under: Joe Biden
soundoff (749 Responses)
  1. BobPA

    Amtrak's no better. Especially on the NE corridor. Other than the Acela, the rest of the trains are worn out, train platforms are in terrible shape, and bathrooms smell terrible.

    February 7, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  2. Ernie

    Natalie, it is true that there are many 3rd world airports worse than LaGuardia, but there are many that are far, far better. An example that comes to mind is the amazing airport in Quito, Ecuador. It puts LaGuardia to shame. And let's face it, I don't know anyone who really likes flying into LaGuardia. The only reason we do it is that it closer to town than Kennedy and Newark. (And both of those are nothing to brag about either.)

    February 7, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. Go Joe Go

    Atta boy- Joe do your stuff lol. Don't let anyone tell you to keep quite , or to hide from the lime light. Campaign Campaign Campaign- the democrats need your support!!! Drive on!

    February 7, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. jp

    Blame, blame, blame, tax, tax, tax. Maybe He should stay in Washington.

    February 7, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. JohnInTX

    Biden certainly isn't wrong. LaGuardia is ridiculous. You can toss Dallas Love Field on the list too. Even though they're upgrading and it's nice and spacious in the front, the hallways and gate areas are almost a clone of LaGuardia.

    February 7, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  6. hencheryjohn

    This is the second Biden article in two days...What is he getting ready to run for?

    February 7, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. ANNIER

    We could sure take lessons from the Aussies in clearing an airport with the arrival of several planes from all over the world. Efficient. Superfast. Dogs everywhere. Those guys don't mess around, while we are P A T H E T I C

    February 7, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  8. PRIORITIES

    The US *is* investing in infrastructure – in Afghanistan, India, China, Saud Arabia, that's why we can't afford improvements here.

    February 7, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  9. Mark Castro

    Biden is abolsutly correct. I have live in NYC my entire life and La Guaria is straight up shameful. Are you kidding Di Blasio....are you seriously going to defend that dump! Its so embarrassing to this city and I am ashamed to even call it part of the city.

    February 7, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Jaosn

    Love him or hate him he speaks the Truth!!!! Although , in fairness it isn't nearly has horrible as it was three years ago...

    February 7, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. Leftcoastrocky

    Yet another example of how urgent it is that the U.S. repair and upgrade its infrastructure.

    February 7, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  12. naggy

    The new Delta terminal is pretty awesome. Best in class

    February 7, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. David

    If Biden & Obama legalize 12 million illegal aliens, we will be a third world in a few years. Those two socialists will do anything to get democrat votes.

    February 7, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. Stephen

    Delta has certainly upgraded Terminal D

    February 7, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  15. John

    I would agree with him. Some of the poorest countries in the world have airlines that are rated higher than American airlines. An example? Ethiopian Airlines. You want another example? South African Airways.

    February 7, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  16. Howard

    I fly out of the New York airports (primarily LaGuardia and JFK) all the time. They were constructed in the early 60s and look it. Most of the terminals have not had any major upgrades in decades. Driving to the airport is a nightmare. Parking anywhere within 10 miles is impossible. I once parked at a long term parking facility and the shuttle got stuck in traffic and I missed my flight, even though I arrived at the parking an hour and a half early.

    February 7, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. Claus

    Well, it might be true that LaGuardia is falling to pieces but that is not the issue here. The real problem here is that unless you have the power to lobby Washington and get influential politicians like Biden to care about what's important for you then nothing will get done. This is the reality we live on right now, if you have the money to entice crooked Washington then you are well off, otherwise the hell with you.

    February 7, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  18. Jaosn

    Actually calling LGA a thrid world airport is offensive to the thirid world....

    February 7, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  19. mario

    LaGuardia needs to be torn down and rebuilt. The bathrooms look like they were never updated. the seating is very limited. it is more of an over glorified regional airport.

    February 7, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. JOE B

    If Biden wants LaGuardia to improve then he and President Obama need to stop spending money in wasteful wars overseas, bring the troops home and put the money towards building America's infrastructure.

    February 7, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. Eric Goodwin

    As a New Yorker who has been to LGA airport many times I must agree! It's sad when I rather fly out of Newark! I bet they will fix it up now!

    February 7, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. Juan

    I have to agree, that airport is horrible.

    February 7, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. Saboth

    "manages an extraordinary amount of traffic and the people work there make it work under very difficult circumstances," So do airports in 3rd world countries.

    February 7, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. Mike

    The Port Authority of NY and NJ can invest in rebuilding LaGuardia anytime they choose to do so. The Federal Government doesn't have to dictate or manage this. As with any renovation, you have to shut it down and doing so would cost significant revenue and there's probably asbestos to deal with. That's why it hasn't been done. They need to find a new site to build a new LaGuardia so the old LaGuardia can stay open until it's done.

    February 7, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    ""So as a proud New Yorker, I didn't like that comment, and I think it was not the right way to talk about it"

    As an even prouder American, I think that the Vice President has every right to have and speak his opinion of the airport. Be a tough New Yorker and take it like one.

    February 7, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30