Coronavirus News: Once bustling LaGuardia Airport now a ghost town

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
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Josh Einiger reports on LaGuardia Airport, a virtual ghost town where robotic voices call out to an audience of no one.

EAST ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- Airports in the tri-state area that were once bustling with people, long lines and planes are practically empty. They aren't shut down -- but nothing is happening. So how long until the airports come back to life?

The taxiways were once so crowded that people spent hours on planes that went nowhere. Traffic once stood still so long it made people miss their flights. But at LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday night, robotic voices now call out to an audience of no one.

With flights down nearly 100 percent, LaGuardia is frozen in time.

It wasn't too long ago that LaGuardia was the place everyone loved to hate. It was obsolete and overcrowded. Social distancing was an impossible concept. But now, wherever you look, you see the same thing: emptiness.

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"We have to recover and we have to recover as quickly as possible," said Rick Cotton.

Cotton is the executive director of the Port Authority, which runs all three major area airports.

And at a time when they normally are previewing summer travel demand, instead, leaders are begging Washington for billions in stimulus -- without which they say a planned renovation at JFK Airport may never get off the ground.

And that means the loss of jobs -- lots of them.

"Help us get through this extraordinary period and we will be major contributors not only to the financial recovery, but also to the emotional recovery that everybody so desperately needs," Cotton said.

Bill Reyna showed up to maintain screening machines for the TSA on Tuesday. He has been to LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark and says everywhere, it's the same story.

"Yeah you do feel a little sadness because the place is in hibernation," Reyna said.

No one ever wrote a love letter to LaGuardia Airport -- even in the worst of times, who would miss it? But one day, when restrictions are lifted we can finally return to a place of connection -- it may just feel like home.


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