Exploring LaGuardia’s Marine Air Terminal: A Step Back in Time

by joeheg

LaGuardia Airport (LGA) has undergone an amazing transformation over the past decade. The outdated decor and poor design are gone, and in their place are the new Terminal B and Terminal C buildings.

One part of LaGuardia that didn’t get rebuilt is the Marine Air Terminal. Also known as Terminal A, this building sits alone on the airport’s west side.

an aerial view of a city

From the National Park Service:

The Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia Airport in New York City remains the only active airport terminal dating from the first generation of passenger travel in the United States–the “Golden Age of the Flying Boat.” The Marine Air Terminal, an Art Deco building designed in 1939 by William Delano of the firm Delano & Aldrich, is comprised of a central circular core of two stories with an attic from which a rectangular entrance pavilion and two symmetrically opposed one-story wings project. Inside the terminal hangs “Flight,” a mural measuring 12 feet in height and 237 feet in length. Completed by James Brooks in 1940, “Flight” depicts the history of man’s involvement with flight.

Both the interior and the exterior of the main building were declared New York City Landmarks in 1980, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

a building with cars parked in front of it

This explains why the terminal is still operating as it did in the 1940s.

Arriving at the Marine Air Terminal is a breeze as you take a different exit from the rest of the airport. There’s considerably less traffic, and you can get dropped off by the main entrance.

In its recent rebirth, the terminal is home to low-cost carriers Spirit and Frontier. In fact, it’s Spirit’s terminal, and Frontier only has 2 gates.

a building with cars parked in front of it

Walking through the main entrance, you’re greeted in the Rotunda by “Flight,” the mural completed in 1940 by James Brooks, which measures 12 feet in height and 237 feet in length. “Flight” depicts the history of man’s involvement with flight

a group of people standing in front of a large mural

I was happy to read that as part of LaGuardia’s art budget for the new terminals, money was put aside to restore “Flight” to its original state.

Of course, they couldn’t prevent Spirit from placing yellow kiosks around the sides of the rotunda.

Hanging from the ceiling is a model of a Boeing 314 Clipper, one of the flying boats that the Marine Air Terminal was designed to serve.

a plane flying in the air

Once through the main building, the building loses much of its charm. You’ve gone through a time warp from the 1940s back to today.

people standing in a line in a terminal

Flying through LaGuardia’s Marine Air Terminal is a neat experience. For a moment, you can imagine that you’re arriving at the airport, about to board a flying boat that will take off from the nearby Bowery Bay.

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Christian January 19, 2023 - 8:50 pm

From the outside it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Miami city hall, which not coincidentally was also a Pan Am flying boat headquarters. I’m so glad the marine terminal will be preserved since it’s both lovely and historic.

Corbett January 22, 2023 - 2:13 pm

jetBlue did a solid job remodeling much of the lobby and gatehouse and Spirit has added nicely.

Denise April 1, 2023 - 6:14 pm

As a native of Queens and having flown from/to LaGuardia many times, I’m delighted to learn that this gorgeous, historic building will not be demolished, as NYC is hell-bent on tearing down most of it’s historic structures in all 5 boroughs, though primarily in Manhattan. Soon, [it] will resemble any other large city anywhere on the globe. For shame.

Ed January 28, 2024 - 4:47 pm

Flew out of this terminal many times when it was Delta Shuttle. There were lots of workstations, free snacks, newspapers and magazines. On arrival, the fastest way to exit the plane was down the stairs that descended under the tail of the aircraft and a 2 minute walk to the taxi line. It was all extremely convenient and business traveler friendly.

derek January 28, 2024 - 5:37 pm

The Marine Air Terminal used to be used by Pan Am for the shuttle to Washington National. Later, Delta took over the shuttle and also used the Marine Air Terminal. I’ve flown on some of those shuttle flights.

Eastern Air Shuttle didn’t use the Marine Air Terminal but used gates on the east side of the airport, east of the old central terminal, which has been demolished.


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