February 6th, 2014
06:38 PM ET
9 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. MrVABill

    LaGuardia is terrific compared with the confusing, dirty and nasty Kennedy Airport. What a grand way to welcome foreign visitors to the United States – NOT.

    February 7, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. Kristin

    Brilliant and very true analogy. Not only are our airports dated, but bridges are falling apart, pipes are at the end of their life...we are akin to a third world country in regards to infrastructure.

    February 7, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  3. Paul

    If you close your eyes at the Amtrak terminal of Penn Station, you might 'I must be in Hell'

    February 7, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  4. FedUpwithLA

    Let's see, who did Mr Biden just insult? There has to be someone out there, with a politically incorrect statement like that, no matter how true . .

    February 7, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  5. David

    You'd think it would take a bit more than a blindfold to trick someone into believing they're no longer in the U.S. Also, the Chinese symbols would be a strong clue. Spending time in Hong Kong with Joe Biden...sounds like a horrible experience.

    February 7, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  6. Karl

    Our VP is soo right in this respect. Infrastructure is in bad shape, roads, airports, trains, bridges. All of it. Would provide Thousands of needed jobs!!!

    February 7, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  7. Felix

    Biden is alright he is telling the truth La Guardia Air Port is less than a third country New York City is the greatest city in the world and both Air Port are a shame when Biden speak about Hong Kong Air Port he is not lying he is talking the truth not only Hong Kong you can travel to those Asians countries and most of those countries has better Air Port and better Customer Services. I guess some people dislike to hear the truth and when you take a taxi in La Guardia or JFK you have to be very careful they want to take you to China to make more money the wrong high way or playing stupid to take advantage of the passengers!
    Ideassoul

    February 7, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. Jeff Butler

    The Delta Terminal is pretty nice now that it's been renovated. Still crowded, though.

    February 7, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. SS Chicago

    It's not known as "LaGarbage" Airport for nothing – it's old and dirty and heaven forbid the wind blows the wrong direction and they have to close one of the two runways. I'm almost tempted to lie down on the floors of O'Hare when returning from NYC trips. Almost.

    February 7, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. stan

    LaGuardia was like a third world airport 20 years ago there is never ending construction that is apparently to repair things but never upgrade them

    February 7, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  11. Tannim

    Since Biden has spent most of the past several decades either travelling on Air Force Two or other government aircraft, what in the hell does he know about commercial air travel? Nada.

    February 7, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  12. Tannim

    Since Biden has spent most of the past several decades either travelling on Air Force Two or other government aircraft, what does he know about commercial air travel? Nada.

    February 7, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. TYANNASAURUS

    Biden´s report is not new news to anyone that travels.....too many poor people from other countries have been let in to this country for cheap labor reasons and as the saying goes one bad apple spoiles the rest...the good apples can´t bring the bad apple up to its level of health..

    February 7, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  14. Bob Jones

    Of course the United States' infrastructure is in ruin. The federal government has spent all the money on social programs. The federal government is supposed to spend federal tax dollars on infrastructure and military, not free breakfast for someone elses kids.

    February 7, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Frequent Traveler

    He's right, LaGuardia is horrible. I can fly out of either JFK, Newark, or LaGuardia, and LaGuardia is always my last choice when booking flights. It's inconvenient to get to (only mass transit is the bus), parking is horrendous and expensive, and aside from some of the newly renovated areas of the terminals, the rest of the terminals are literally falling apart.

    February 7, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. Jme

    Wasn't this one of the shovel ready jobs you were going to over see Joe?

    February 7, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  17. TheObserver

    "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.

    ---------–
    We've also fallen (well) behind, Egypt, Iran, and Nigeria in economic inequality. It's documented, it's a proven national trend since 1978, and nobody cares, so why would we expect anything infrastructure related to receive funding or attention? Shall we discuss public education.........?

    This is America now. Regardless of which of the two parties (and there are only 2 that matter) is in office, the money trickles UP to the same people, FROM the same people. It's been this way for 3 decades. Progress has no place in the American Congress, only profit. Stop acting surprised when you read stories like this.

    Reminder to everyone who STILL thinks our nation's issues are caused by poor people: Please wear tin-foil on your head so we all know who you are.

    February 7, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  18. Mark

    Totally agree with Joe.

    February 7, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. SCBAMA

    I would have the city of New York pay to upgrade the facility. Not the US Taxpayers problem. The city and state of New York already charge fees to passengers and the airlines for landing their planes there.

    February 7, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. Darren

    If Biden thinks LaGuardia is bad, he should try LAX. I'm embarrassed it's the first impression of the United States that many international travelers see. We've got nothing on Hong Kong.

    February 7, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. Anonymous

    I went this summer. I was definitely disappointed that La Guardia looked like that. It was horrible...horrible. It was the worst airport that I have ever seen.

    February 7, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  22. dsangiovanni

    Agree 100%. La Guardia airport sucks!

    February 7, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  23. paul tracy

    avoid LGA at all cost, walking on icy, dark walkways with screaming jet noises is absolutely 3rd world

    February 7, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  24. Kevin

    He's right. And the same can be said for our national telecommunications system, internet. Where we have the wonderful illusion that we have the best, but reality is a different story. We pay many more times 3, 4, 5, even 10 times what others pay for high speed internet, and yet our fastest speeds are a small fraction of what others get for an even lower price. What's happened to this country?

    February 7, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  25. History Bear

    I agree with the vice president. Without good infastructure the economy will continue to stagnate. Just be sure that when you begin rebuilding you allow only US companies to do the work and hold them to stringent standards. No chinese, french, british etc. companies coming over and skimming the cream and doing shoddy work.

    February 7, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
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