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LaGuardia Traffic Nightmare: Travelers Ditch Rides On Grand Central, Walk To Airport

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Travelers were urged to pack extra patience and time Friday because of major traffic backups into and out of LaGuardia Airport.

The Grand Central Parkway was loaded up each way into LaGuardia at 94th Street for hours Friday because of internal roadway congestion on airport property, 1010 WINS' Matt Ward reported.

As CBS2's Lou Young reported, the sight was incredible – people getting out and walking along the parkway out of frustration with the massive backup.

Official inquiries about why the backup was happening went unanswered, but sources said excessive flight volume on Friday was to blame – after 1,053 flights were canceled at LaGuardia because of the snowstorm that dumped 10 inches on the airport on Thursday.

But the construction-stressed road network at LaGuardia has backed up before, and on Friday, it was happening again.


Late Friday night, traffic conditions seemed to be improving – very slowly but surely, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

An NYPD Traffic Unit was posted at the airport, trying to make sure that everyone could get to and from the airport safely.

Earlier, the backup affected every approach to the airport, and sidewalks were filled with luggage-toting passengers on their way in and out. Even an American Airlines flight crew from Dallas just had to hoof it.

Pilot and first officer Mike Hayes had just landed a jet that he had been flying at a speed of 600 mph. Afterward, he had to walk out of the airport.

"We are walking to the hotel," he said.

Pilot Dave Spencer said he had never experienced such problems with an airport.

"Never -- usually it's bad, but this is about as bad as I've seen it," said pilot Dave Spencer.

"New York is a great city but they've got to do better than this," said airline employee Jerry Shaw.

"It's crazy, it's crazy," added first officer Scott Freeman, who was clad in a New England Patriots cap. "It's New York."

Indeed, it was serious blow to New York civic pride Friday, as everyone coming to or leaving LaGuardia was turned into a refugee.

"I got dropped off at Terminal C. It is a complete backlog up there, and I had to walk across the bridge, and I couldn't get a taxi, so I'm walking to my car," said air traveler Millie Becker.

Pictures posted to social media showed many people ditching their cabs on the parkway, making the long trek to the terminal on foot.

One photo appeared to show a pilot in his uniform, carrying his luggage and walking through the snow to get to the airport.

One man was spotted running down the Grand Central Parkway with his luggage in tow.

"No choice. I'm already late – very late," he said. "I'm probably missing my flight right now."

Another man was seen climbing right over a highway divider.

And a third man, Tim Perry, had to scramble up a snow-covered embankment from the Grand Central Parkway and climb over a fence.

"I've never seen it like this. It's completely insane. I left my office at 12:30, from Midtown Manhattan," he said.

It seemed like the only helping hand he got was a boost over that wrought iron fence from CBS2's Young.

"I'm headed to Terminal C. I've got a 3 o'clock flight," Perry said. "I've been on a bus; I've been on a subway."

Finally, he got into a car that left him in stopped traffic.

"I think Mayor Bill de Blasio; the Port Authority, should get in a car and wait out here like the rest of us have to do, and see exactly how the construction project is going on," Perry said.

CBS2's Young did not have the heart to point out to Perry that LaGuardia is actually Gov. Andrew Cuomo's territory. Furthermore, the massive construction project has led to shocking traffic jams at the airport before.

In late August of last year, passengers ended up parking along the Grand Central Parkway and dragging their luggage along the busy road.

At that time, the Port Authority did not go on camera, but did say they would tinker with the traffic patterns to try to fix things. Changes were made, but the problem is not fixed.

There was also massive gridlock at the airport following a blizzard in January 2016. Passengers flooded the area when delayed flights resumed and traffic from the evening commute made matters even worse. Some people were stuck in traffic for up to five hours and many travelers missed their flights.

And while airports are supposed to be able to be flexible, LaGuardia will not be for a while. And passengers were not pleased.

"I might go to Newark next time," said Kim Sater.

Even air crews avoid LaGuardia if they can.

"I've been trying to fly out of Kennedy so that I don't have to come here because of the craziness," said flight attendant Nicky Dajanakis.

The airport said it had more police on the ground helping to move traffic, but based on the frustrated and tired faces, it didn't seem to help much.

"I'm never, never coming here again," Spencer said.

Confused passengers stood around looking for their Uber rides, and buses dumped passengers far away from the terminals.

Overall, arriving visitors, as a group, were distinctly annoyed.

"I've lost feeling in my elbows. My toes are cold," said Kim Fron.

An airport employee said late Friday that it was such a mess at LaGuardia all day, and so many people missed their flights, that the majority of them have been rebooked for sometime this weekend. Thus, there is no knowing what Saturday will bring.

The construction at the airport will continue for four years.

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