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Photo: Jeff Yapalater/Airport Voice

BY JEFF YAPALATER

“Wow” was the word from many travelers’ mouths as they walked to their departure at LaGuardia Airport’s new Terminal B, on Dec. 1.

This is the first new terminal in New York in decades, and from the looks of things on the first day, the travelers loved it. You could  see how Commercial Chief Officer Ed Baklor feels about the 90,000-square-foot, state-of-art building, which has an airy, roomy, clean, modern and comfortable feel.

He was proud of the efforts by all involved in bringing this terminal to reality. The terminal is filled with unique concessions, mouth-watering restaurants and specialty markets.

According to a spokesperson, much of the interior is based on the feel of New York. Many of the restaurants are native NY locations and concessions include an FAO Schwartz, a Bookstore, MAC Cosmetics from the Hudson Group, and the popular Shake Shack, which was mobbed on the first day. SoHo-based independent bookseller McNally Jackson, Hudson, LaGuardia Dufry Duty Free Shops, M·A·C, District Market – with specialty Made in Queens products – and Spa Here have retail shops that line the wide and easy-to-maneuver concourse.

However not every fun thing costs money. There is a free, cool feature which is the kids creative design aviation wall. Here children (or adults) can use a computer to design an aircraft; once finished, the created plane can been seen on a huge animated wall with the children’s named aircraft taking off and flying around the airport.

For the traveler in search of zen or relaxation, the concourse has an indoor park modeled after Queens-area parks with a great relaxing view of the airplane runways. Travelers can also take the grand escalator up to the second floor, where the brand-new Air Canada Lounge just opened, to have an impressive view of the entire concourse, gates and tarmac.

The eastern concourse of the new Terminal B has 11 gates serving American, Air Canada and Southwest Airlines. United Airlines will follow next year as the other side of the terminal wing is completed.

The new terminal showcases Governor Andrew Cuomo’s vision to build a unified, 21st-century airport that is a leader in guest experience, innovation and sustainability with its airy, wide and concession-filled concourse.

Cuomo actually thanked former Vice President Joe Biden for his remark on LaGuardia being like a third world nation. Cuomo said this motivated him to pursue a plan to rebuild LaGuardia. Cuomo not built the vision but has also launched redevelopment of JFK Airport which is now in the beginning stages of a $13 billion dollar rehab.

“The opening of the new eastern concourse at Terminal B is just the first step in our mission to provide a top-class visitor experience at LaGuardia, worthy of the greatest city in the world,” said Stewart Steeves, CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners (LGP). “Our concourse’s innovative design, inclusive atmosphere, and choice food and retail options will bring LaGuardia into the 21st century, and we’re proud to work with both the governor and the Port Authority to transform Terminal B into a gateway New Yorkers can be proud of.”

LGP is comprised of Vantage Airport Group, Skanska, Meridiam and JLC Infrastructure.

The “W” word was also used to describe one of the more important areas of the terminal, the restrooms. Travelers were wowed by the clean tiled look, live orchids on the wide shelf for holding small personal items by the mirrors, and the unique spacious stalls which are shaped and large enough to bring in a personal roller bag. This impressed more than a few flyers.

Said Robert G. from Detroit, “ I arrived at another terminal here at LaGuardia, and was not happy with the condition. It was dumpy compared to Detroit Airport. But when I walked into this new building, wow, I was amazed. This is amazing.”

He was not alone in this reaction. Another couple flying to Newfoundland via Air Canada actually took pictures of the bathrooms to show their friends at home.

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