September 22, 2023

The (Sometimes) Friendly Skies

The (Sometimes) Friendly Skies

So, the verdict is in. The New York Metro area is home to one of the best airports in the country—LaGuardia Airport—and one of the worst—Newark Airport, according to J.D. Power and Associates, which recently surveyed 27,000 air travelers on the most and least satisfying airports to pass through.

Newark was at the very bottom of the list of the largest airports. Meanwhile, LaGuardia—which was in last place among large airports in 2022—has risen to a respectable middle of the pack, thanks to a big redevelopment project. What a difference a year makes. The survey looked at factors such as terminal facilities, arrival and departures, baggage claim, security check, check-in, food and beverage, and retail.

I spend more time than many people in airports, and I agreed with most of the findings. LaGuardia’s leadership team has really turned what was prior to its re-development referred to as “third world”—and Newark Airport is still the gauntlet of stress and delays that it always was. Even when I arrive two hours ahead of time, it’s never quite enough to navigate the airport in peace, or to sit down and get some work done.

The good news is that travelers’ satisfaction with airports is rising overall, so perhaps Newark will catch up next year. I had a chance to see the new Terminal A, and it’s a big improvement, designed to reduce wait times at security checkpoints.

I hope we’ll see more action to improve air travel overall, because the challenges that come with it are still affecting the economic recovery. Although the Fed opted not to raise interest rates this week and says we’re in for a soft landing, it doesn’t feel that way in many industries. It’s hard to revive hospitality and live events to pre-pandemic levels when people feel their long-awaited trips may be cancelled at the last moment. Shortages of pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers, along with the withdrawal of large airlines from regional airports, haven’t helped. Neither have the cutbacks in business air travel caused by layoffs in sectors like technology and banking.

Many of us have to stick it out because travel is a big part of our work lives. As a business leader, it’s important for me to make time to meet with our team in person as much as I can, and as we’ve grown, the next 60 days or so have me traveling from our three NYC airports (La Guardia, Newark & JFK) to such airports as San Francisco, Seoul (Korea), Reagan National, Orlando and Palm Beach International. I’m sure one or two more may be added.

Sunday at sundown starts Yom Kippur, perhaps the most sacred day of the year for Jews worldwide. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, when we repent for our sins of the past year and ask to be “inscribed in the book of life” for another year. It’s traditional for Jews to fast from sundown to sundown as part of the repenting process. For those of you who observe, have an easy fast.