New York’s LaGuardia Airport has been the center of controversy over the past several years. In 2014, then Vice-President Joe Biden said” If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you must think I must be in some third world country.”
To be honest, I think that might be offensive to some third-world countries that managed to operate airports better than LGA. Regardless, LaGuardia Airport does have some significant advantages, including being the closest airport to Manhattan and most of Brooklyn. And while it’s the third-busiest airport in the NYC Tri-State area behind JFK and Newark, it’s still the 21st busiest airport in the US (despite only serving mostly domestic-based flights).
To improve its lackluster appearance, LaGuardia is almost finished with a massive 8-billion dollar transformation and the majority opinion is that the new terminal areas are exponentially better than what they replaced.
However, one area of the airport escaped the renovation, because it’s detached from the rest of LaGuardia Airport.
Terminal A, otherwise known as the Marine Air Terminal, was originally designed in the 1940s to serve PanAm’s fleet of flying boats, which landed and took off on the nearby Bowery Bay.
Times have understandably changed but the Marine Air Terminal still exists, separate from the rest of LGA. It’s housed several different airlines over the years. I remember flying on JetBlue into this terminal several years ago but as of March 2022, Spirit Airlines has moved all of its LGA flights to Terminal A.
With Spirit being the main operator from the terminal (except for a few Frontier flights running from a single gate), I got to experience what it was like to go through the TSA checkpoint with a bunch of people who fly on Spirit.
Except that I didn’t get the same experience.
I wasn’t expecting to see a CLEAR checkpoint but I did have a TSA PreCheck mark on my boarding pass. When entering the terminal, I passed the check-in kiosk as I printed my boarding pass at my hotel. I did double-check that my bag fit into the sizer as a personal item.
From there, I passed the bag drop section. I didn’t check a bag because I was only in New York for 25 & 1/2 hours, thanks to Hurricane Ian.
After that was the TSA Checkpoint for the 6 gates of Terminal A. There was a line to the left and a single agent to the right, standing by the TSA PreCheck sign. I walked up and showed him my boarding pass.
Almost seeming delighted, the agent said “Oh, you have PreCheck! Come over here!”
He undid the divider and led me to the front of the line. WelI, is it really the front of the line if you’re the only one there?
I went right to the TSA agent who checked my boarding pass then handed me a slip of paper saying I was PreCheck and pointed me to the X-Ray. I dropped my bag on the belt and the next agent started to tell me to take off my shoes and remove my liquids and electronics…
That’s when he saw the PreCheck paper and said, “No buddy, you’re PreCheck. Right this way.”
I walked through the X-Ray scanner, picked up my bag and was at the gates in about 90 seconds. It was my fastest trip through a TSA Checkpoint ever and I felt like a VIP. I guess most passengers buying tickets from LaGuardia on Spirit don’t have PreCheck.
This was undoubtedly my quickest trip through security. Admittedly this is a unique situation because I was flying from a terminal exclusively with Spirit Airlines (and Frontier) flights. While those in the frequent traveler world tend to think that everyone has TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, this was a reminder that there’s a large percentage of the public who travel without having memberships with either of them.
And if you happen to visit a terminal like that, don’t be surprised if you’re treated like a VIP. More posts about my first flight on Spirit, from the booking process to the in-flight experience are coming soon. I can say it wasn’t anything like I expected.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary