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

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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. Glenn

    What's everyone complaining about? We've gotten so silly in this country to the point where one's not supposed to say anything negative, even if the statement happens to be true. Has any of the complainers ever seen LaGuardia airport? It really is bad. Now... I've haven't seen many third world airports, but as the country with the world's largest economy, an airport such as LaGuardia should be a lot better than it is. The complainers should stop complaining and figure out a way to help improve the situation.

    February 7, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. LaGuardiaUser

    But like anything else in this country, if we attempt to fix it and cause disturbance to the American population, they revolt and complain until the work stops. At one point they wanted to replace the BQE but guess what... it is still there, patched up instead like everything else in this city.

    February 7, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  3. RL

    So Biden thinks Hong Kong is a third world country with a modern airport?

    February 7, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  4. Bostonstrong

    Jen –

    When I first read his comment, the exact same thought came to my mind. But if you pause and think for a moment, you will know what he meant and agree with him. He should have put it more clearly, like this – if you blindlfolded me and not let me know where you were taking me. Once you dropped me at each respective airports, you unblindfold me and asked me where I think I was. I would have thought I was in a third world country at both of the aiports in NY, and Hongkong being America, based on my expectations. I have traveled to a number of contries and I totatly get what Biden was saying.

    On a different note, whoever it applies to, whoever argued that the term thrid-world should be developing-counrtries. Let me give you examples of third-world versus developing, they are not one and the same, as developing is rather second-world. Countries such as China, Thailand, etc, are not third-world anymore, they developing/second-world. Countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, North Korea, etc. are third -world, they are not developing.

    February 7, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  5. colin

    "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,'"

    Only Joe Biden could manage to insult the Chinese while complaining about a US airport.

    Of course Hong Kong has a modern airport, Hong Kong lives on transportation, and it was built before the commies took over.

    February 7, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  6. GetOverItAfricaIsBeautifulToo

    Hong Kong Airport was built in 1998, LaGuardia opened for commercial flights in 1939, was built in 1929, oh boy!

    February 7, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  7. IpseCogita

    Been to a few third world airports. Biden is taking hyperbole a little far here, there is absolutely no comparison.

    February 7, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. Fair is Fair

    Hope you win the dem primary, plugs... I REALLY hope yo win the dem primary.

    February 7, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Michael

    I don't know how they can fix that airport without shutting it down and demolishing it. And the only way they can do that is to build a new airport at another location which can be opened before the shutdown. But where would they put it?

    February 7, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. KM

    Travel 100,000+ miles a year. Looks like the Moscow airport and only airport you have to go through security twice, or thrice.

    February 7, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. CDC

    At all cost, I try to avoid flying into and leaving from LaGuardia...If you take public transportation to get to the and from the airport, it is a hassle (unlike JFK and Newark). Yes, in most cases it is cheap to fly from–but, it isn't worth it when you realize that it is so far away and then the delays are a killer...I would pay more to fly into or from JFK or Newark any day then fly from LaGuardia.

    February 7, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  12. Concerned

    His and Obama's hotel bill in Paris last year could be used to do more good such as improvement projects....instead of family vacation with taxpayer's money....Hippocrates...99% of the politicians..."lets give ourselves another raise....hooray"

    February 7, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. Brian

    Biden is right. He nailed it. I avoid that airport at all costs.

    February 7, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  14. Big_D

    If it isn't a rich guy's yacht it isn't new in the USA. I would be more worried about all the bridges on the edge.

    February 7, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  15. sly

    Spend our tax dollars here in America. Bush squandered $5 trillion (TRILLION) chasing Bin Laden in ... Iraq.

    The old fool set us back a decade.

    February 7, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. w

    Keep in mind that republicans have done everything to block funding to improve infrastructure.
    Always vote Democratic.

    February 7, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. German

    Talking about Port Authority, you must stop at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NY, today, plastic bags taped to the roofs in multiple locations connected to hoses going to garbage cans. It is a shame.

    BTW, The pictures from the days where the PABT was opened (50+ years ago) posted on some of the gates, show a much better facility that what it is now.

    ON the other hand, bridge and tunnels tolls have been raised $$$ where the money goes ???
    Poor Administration.

    February 7, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  18. Robert Johnson

    LaGuardia is like paradise compared to Kennedy airport.

    February 7, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Olivia

    Um, has he opened his eyes to the rest of the country? What was once the strongest country on the planet is the laughing stock. Cut out welfare to those that are abusing it and start fixing bridges, roads and transit programs. THAT will create jobs AND fix something at the same time – what a marvel idea!

    February 7, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  20. WDAVIS

    I'm not a Biden fan but I agree with him here on US infrastructure.
    Planes, trains, and buses should not compete but complement each for efficient, economical, and timely, modes of moving people and goods.

    February 7, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  21. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    It has been years, 40 to be exact, since I flew into New York city. Neither LaGuardia nor JFK were a treat then and I suspect time has not improved them. I leave Newark out because the one time I used that facility was such a disaster I vowed never again.

    Actually, given the often crush of air travel, the TSA, the high prices and the airline's arrogance, I have just about given up flying at all.

    February 7, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Billy Bob Thraxton

    Biden is a joke. Where the frack does he think we're going to get the money to rebuild our transit? China?

    February 7, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. Tyler Durden

    Hey Joe, Hong Kong's corporate tax rate is 16.5% compared to 40% in the US. Maybe if your party had policies that didn't discourage free enterprise, you could have a nice airport that didn't involve raising tax rates to cover more fruitless spending.

    February 7, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. Thoth

    He's not wrong about La Guardia (although, in my opinion, JFK is even worse.) He's also not wrong about the airports in other countries. In the past few years I've flown into airports in Chile, Ecuador and Turkey that put virtually any US airport to shame. We have this cultural myth that OF COURSE our stuff is the best and it is so, so wrong.

    Most other countries' airlines are better too, for that matter. On LAN (Chilean, though flies throughout South America), the seats in coach are as large as a US carrier provides in business; free entertainment and wine are standard. I'm sure there are nations where the airlines are even scarier/cheaper than ours, but they start way, way further down the list of "developed nations" than most people would dream.

    February 7, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. PCG

    I'm sure a new terminal will be nice but will revitalizing the terminal actually increase capacity? Is that actually the chokepoint? CNN should really did a little deeper than this. Typically when these politicians enthusiastically get behind stuff like this it is really kickbacks to contractors and developers that donate to them.

    February 7, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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