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. Robert K.

    I have been in more airports than I care to remember. The only one worst was a small "international" airport in Eastern Slovakia that we flew into when we went to visit my wife's grandparents in 1981. It's still there and was updated a few years back, they finally put in an outhouse!!

    February 7, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Khalid

    I agree, Both laguardia and JFK are 3rd world kind of airports...learn from Atlanta a bit...

    February 7, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. Jim

    I fly for about 50% of my job. I agree with Biden's assessment. LaGuardia is a pit. Always under construction, dirty and it looks like it's going to fall down from the exterior. Plus the parking is abyssmal. Joe finally got something right.

    February 7, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. Al

    We must really cease using the term “third world.” It is an old imperialistic term used primarily during the cold war and is derogatory toward less developed countries. If anything, it highlights the disparity between the have and the have nots of this world. Democrats, of all people, should be sympathetic to these issues; I would have expected more.

    February 7, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. Ryan H

    Come to Memphis, you will actually see what a third world airport looks like.

    February 7, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. Ray

    Why is Biden insulting 3rd world countries? The US is so far behind the rest of the world in just about everything that really matters. Medical care, education are terrible and overpriced. Food & clothing are overpriced. Every time we return to the US, prices are up 5-10%. It goes on & on.

    February 7, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC


    Agree totally with the VP. I have been there 2 times within the past 4 years and it is a filthy, rude, disgrace of an airport. Every flight is late and switches gates at the last minute. I brought my foreign bride into her first port of entry and even she was shocked and she is from a third world country. When we missed our connection to Atlanta because she had to go through immigrations I was surprised to see that our connection had not left yet even though we were 2 hours late. We waited an additional 2 hours and the entire hold up was because there was nobody able to clean the commode on the small airplane. I volunteered to clean it if that would speed things up. The agent said I could not unless I was a union member and working for the airport. Pathetic!
    When did international flights start landing at LaGuardia? LaGuardia has always been used exclusively for domestic flights, while Kennedy serves international flights. Kennedy and Newark have much longer runways, which makes them both better suited for the larger jets frquently used on international flights.

    February 7, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. Mary

    I agree with Vice-President Biden and you can throw JFK in there too. It's an embarrassment to think people coming from other countries seeing America for the first time think that's the way our country is. They're dirty and the people are either uninterested in helping or downright rude. My husband and I travel a lot and have sworn never to travel anywhere that connects through JFK or LaGuardia!

    February 7, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. Jim

    Instead of spending over 1.5 trillion dollars on a two front war, we could have rebuilt all the major airports, laid to new rail, and provided broadband fiber internet access to all the major cities. What have you done, Mr. Biden?

    February 7, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. Bill Davis

    Biden could have worked on it long time wig,just looking for press

    February 7, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. longhauler

    There are many many many places like that half the country is like that

    February 7, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  12. Balls of Steel

    Airports are part of the infrastructure and if they are not up to standards, it's the government to blame. Instead of spending money to save useless countries, let's spend it where it's needed, in our own country. Obviously Mr. Biden forgot he was American.

    February 7, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. Bob

    If looking over the topic of Train transportation, then someone with some power to please tell the senate to increase AMTRAK's yearly Budget to more of a substantiable income than to what is currently granted by the senate so that the railroad can increase its fleet of newer equipment. Amtrak currently has new viewliners that will be coming into service this year for baggage and diners mostly and many new ACS-64's electrics to replace the old AEM-7's that currently lug trains around on the Northeast Corridor. More funding is needed though to increase peoples view of train travel!

    February 7, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  14. Babi

    We are becoming a 3rd world country. Lagging way behind not only public transportation, but fiber optic communication and alternative energy. All because of big business monopoly and our stupid politicall stalemates. Something has to change – or we will never catch up. VP Biden has an excellent point – and was not afraid to voice it.

    February 7, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. Carlos Menendez

    I could not agree more with the VP. Though offensive to some I am sure, he is telling it like it is. It's a wake up call. We are losing our edge.

    February 7, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  16. over60

    Boy he got that right. Had to transfer from JFK(no screaming hell either) to Laguardia. Thought I had been dropped off in an old Greyhound bus depot. By far the worst airport I have ever been in.

    February 7, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  17. maloryj

    The only problem I see here is the fact that the renovations though necessary, are very costly, and unfortunately they will be passed on to the consumers. Though not necessary, statistically this will be the "source of funding" remember toll booths? The greed factor needs a serouus diet, The port authority needs to understand that not all the revenue should be allocated for executives etc. Business expansion and sustainability should be a part of revenue distribution.

    February 7, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. frida

    He is spot on! Maybe the Yankees organization can loan a few $$$ for comets airport renovation?

    February 7, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. James

    If Joe Bidden wants to see what a real third world country looks like, he should cross the parkway into Northern Queens. Millions of illegal immigrants, living in illegal apartments, voting illegally for his liberal democrats. That should put a smile on his face.

    February 7, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |

    Airports in South America are very looking and cleaner than any airports in this country. Biden is delusional, America became not a third world country but a 4th World contry with all the refugees that come here from Africa and Mid East.

    February 7, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. James

    So, i think people can 'get over' the state of the buildings at Laguardia – however bad. I can't get over the outwardly rude nature of the workers there. I was in Laguardia, transferring with a layover of 2 hours. I went to some food court area and when I was "served" my food, the worker literally tossed the plate at me, over the counter, on to the floor and walked away. I asked them for another plate, that you dropped it onto the floor and they just looked at me, looked at the floor and pretended not to hear me. I didn't press my luck, and quickly realized i was probably better off in case the quality of the service was any indication to the quality and safety of the food. This airport needs a complete do-over, people first.

    February 7, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. Belinda

    Says the man who isn't even qualified to lead a third world country.

    February 7, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  23. MrScott

    Well Biden got it right for a change. However Obama wanted infrastructure improvements when he first started his presidency and Biden gets to see nothing has changed. Sadly only a select few airports have been modernized (one of which has improved but only has five flights a day). For me, I will select only a handful of politicians that have a proven track record of improvement as the rest are full of hot air.

    February 7, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  24. Max

    Not too surprising as we now also have a third-world economy as the job growth over the past 6 (yes, 6) years points to.

    February 7, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. My big brain

    Biden – you and your pal have taken the US to a third world country status – So LaGuardia is just fine...

    February 7, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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