Road Warrior

Renovation plans in the works for Biden's ‘worst airport’

VP Biden says LaGuardia Airport '3rd world'

Joe Biden, get in line.

The vice president certainly isn't the first to mock the state of affairs at LaGuardia Airport. New York City's second-biggest airport has been landing in the No. 1 slot on many "worst" lists for years.

"The airport has the dubious honor of ranking the worst for the check-in and security process, the worst for baggage handling, the worst when it comes to providing Wi-Fi, the worst at staff communication, and the worst design and cleanliness," Travel & Leisure wrote.

Frommers, J.D. Power & Associates, Zagat, the Los Angeles Times and plenty of others have taken shots. Last month, even New York's governor took aim.

"LaGuardia Airport is ranked the worst airport in America," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during his State of the State speech. "That is a disgrace, my friends. And it is unacceptable."

LaGuardia Airport in New York
Getty Images

On Thursday, Biden castigated LaGuardia while calling for capital reinvestment in the country's transportation infrastructure.

"If I took you blindfolded ... to LaGuardia Airport in New York you must think, 'I must be in some Third World country.' I'm not joking," Biden said. "Why did we lead the world economically for so long? We had the most modern infrastructure in the world.

"But according to the World Economic Forum, just in the last decade the United States has fallen 20 spots when it comes to the quality of infrastructure," he said. "It's embarrassing. And it's stupid. It's stupid. ... They rank us behind Barbados. Great country; one airport."

(Read more: Biden says NY airport like one in a 'Third World country')

Phil Derner Jr., the owner of joked on Twitter, "As for Biden's LGA comments, how dare he insult Third World countries!" The exception, he said, was the recently overhauled Terminal D, home to Delta Air Lines' LGA operations.

Costly flight disruptions

The truth is that the airport's operator knows that the facility is bad and is close to getting a multibillion-dollar renovation plan off the ground.

"Significant investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs, which is why the Port Authority [of New York & New Jersey] this week proposed a 10-year, $27 billion capital plan that creates more than 126,000 jobs and invests $8 billion in modernizing the region's airports," the agency said in a statement sent to CNBC late Thursday.

"We are fast-tracking efforts that have lagged for more than a decade and investing $3.6 billion through an innovative public-private partnership to build a new Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport that will provide passengers with a world-class terminal," the statement said.

The agency is seeking public comment on the plan through Feb. 14. LaGuardia's $3.6 billion project is scheduled to be finished in the third quarter of 2021.

(Read more: Airport upgrades: Changing rooms, outdoor plazas)

LaGuardia wasn't always so bad. Built in 1939 on the site of the old Gala Amusement Park, the airport has been operated by the Port Authority since 1947. Its Marine Air Terminal, which once offered airport-to-Manhattan river ferry service, is still home to the WPA-era landmarked mural "Flight," by James Brooks.

The Port Authority's airports, which also include Kennedy and Newark international airports, handled a record 111.6 million passengers last year, topping the previous mark set in 2007 by more than 1.5 million.

(Read more: Four airlines told to raise wages by $1 an hour)

—By CNBC's Amy Langfield. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyLangfield.

Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.