February 6th, 2014
06:38 PM ET
5 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. hellsyeahs

    Biden was spot on with this comment. Any one who disagrees clearly hasn't travelled outside the country.

    February 7, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  2. khang

    laguardia is crap from runway to lounge..should be coverted into homeless shelter

    February 7, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  3. BidenOutOfTouch

    "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..."

    Most Asian international airports are MORE modern than US airports.
    US airports are NOT a standard for world class airports.

    February 7, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  4. Rs1201

    Biden lives up to his reputation ...a dunce!

    February 7, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  5. Pete/Ark

    The only thing worse are the smoking rooms at Hartsfield ...

    February 7, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  6. Karen

    New York is a third world city.

    February 7, 2014 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  7. Fund transportation

    Maybe, instead of sending billions of dollars to countries who waste our money with no improvements, we should spend the billions in our own country updating the transportation nightmare we have in the US. Only 48% of us pay taxes, which go to pander the poor and lazy, sent to other countries whose government are not passing it on to where the citizens are in need and other ridiculous thing. Let's keep our money home and update our transportation!

    February 7, 2014 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  8. rfb

    I would never think that Hong Kong's airport was in the US. It is *way* too nice, with a separate arrival level vs. departure level, tons of moving sidewalks, wide, spacious terminals. I would think I was in Asia or the Middle East.

    February 7, 2014 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  9. Nate

    I forgot we had a vice president

    February 7, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  10. Dinaanid

    We can finance two wars we didn't need, but we have some of the most pathetic airports in the industrialized world. Biden is right, and it's an American failure.

    February 7, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  11. John Thornberg

    Biden is right. The Hong Kong airport is amazing and America is no longer the leader in many areas and an airport is an important symbol of a city. Biden like the rest of us want to be the best and a little truth is a good thing.

    February 7, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  12. Hailey

    I am from HK and I came to NYC to study last summer. Not LGA but through JFK. JFK is kinda embarrassing tbh...

    February 7, 2014 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  13. newyrkcali

    Miami is like a third world country including corrupt mayors and police departments, lawlessness everywhere and police officers turning their head because they don't care if traffic laws is not broken. They don't care to take time to police the city for minor offenses which makes Miami a city poorly controlled and managed. Crooked construction contracts equal terrible freeways, buildings, poor construction and designs. Miami is a third world country when will the FBI will come and investigate this city.\? When will CNN do a piece on how terrible Miami is?

    February 7, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  14. nic

    La Guardia Airport? The whole of the US looks like a Third World country!

    February 8, 2014 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  15. Lorraine Lewis

    ....yes VP Biden, Barbados is a great country.... It is an island...166sq miles of beauty...and we only need that one well managed, efficient airport.....it gets the job done!!!!!

    February 8, 2014 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  16. JC

    We desperately need investment in our undersized and crumbling infrastructure. 60 years ago we took pride in building non-glamorous infrastructure projects, because we knew it was vital to our economic health and stability. Today's American looks at these projects as "non-glamorous", and has no interest in supporting them, yet they beetch about waiting in lines, traffic, dealing with delays, etc. Get a grip, people. We need to quit building sports stadiums (many of which are only 30 years old when torn down), shopping malls, etc. and start building and upgrading bridges, roads, water & sewage systems, electrical grid, schools, and vital needs such as these!!!

    February 8, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  17. mgm

    Guess that is why so many third worlders are moving here. We are educating them and it is bringing our scores down.

    February 8, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. sammy750

    We need to understand that Gov. Christie has taken over the NY Port authority, put all his men in power there. So nothing will change in NY or NJ, unless Christie can use the Sandy Aid money for improvement.

    February 8, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. vindo

    mr biden has obviously not been to an airport in the so called third world. By the way the bathrooms at DC reagan airport show the rotten state of the infrastructure in the USA.

    February 8, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  20. keep5pointsfunky

    Reading comprehension is better in Hong Kong. Half of the commenters don't even understand Biden's comparison. I'm embarrassed at the education system in America first. The crappy New York airports are further down my list of concerns.

    February 9, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. Rick

    As a born and raised New Yorker now living elsewhere, I've often described LaGuardia in exactly the same terms as Biden. I suppose stating the truth is bad politics.

    February 9, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. wolf

    biden might have been right or wrong, but the worst part was the anchor that said it is no worse than Cleveland or Detroit. Detroit happens to have one of the best airports in the world. gorgeous , efficient, and when the east coast airports shut down for 2" of snow, Detroit operates throughout blizzards, and has it down to a science.

    February 9, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. Brian

    Just how modern does an airport need to be? As long as all aviation equipment is state of the art, I really don't care that much what the inside of an airport is like. As long as it's clean, safe and there are some amenities, I can make do. I don't need it to look like a scene out of Star Trek.

    February 10, 2014 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  24. williame

    For example (I have never traveled to Hong Kong), LaGuardia is far worse than the excellent airports serving Rīga, Latvia and Helsinki, Finland. These airports are spotlessly clean and have separate levels for arrivals and departures. They have high-quality shops and restaurants service high-quality food. Most significantly of all, they have immigration and customs officers who courteous - they even smile!

    February 10, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
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