Airport delays, traffic restrictions: Many New Yorkers apprehensive about Trump travelling

President-elect Donald Trump boards his personal plane to fly to Washington for an event ahead of his inauguration at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
President-elect Donald Trump boards his personal plane to fly to Washington for an event ahead of his inauguration at LaGuardia Airport in New York. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - While President-elect Donald Trump was already disliked by many New Yorkers, he did not win any new fans in his hometown on Thursday (Jan 19) when his flight to the inaugural festivities in Washington snarled air traffic at La Guardia Airport.

The cascade of delays prompted by Mr Trump's departure left New Yorkers wondering how his trips between the two cities might disrupt daily life once he is president.

His motorcade arrived at the New York City airport shortly after 11am, and television stations broadcast his takeoff in a Boeing 757 plane. More than a dozen planes were stopped near a runway.

Mr Adrian Benepe, the former city parks commissioner, was on one of the planes when the captain informed passengers that they were waiting on an important person and his entourage of dark SUVs.

"We sat on the tarmac in this gigantic queue for about an hour and a half," he said in a telephone interview. They left for Minneapolis at about 11.45am.

Flying out of La Guardia Airport - an experience Mr Trump and Vice President Joe Biden both have likened to a Third World airport - is difficult enough, Mr Benepe said, but now he worried about broader travel problems during Mr Trump's presidency.

"I hope the president doesn't make a habit of commuting between New York and Washington," Mr Benepe said.

The delays prompted angry venting on social media.

"Trump delays all flights at LGA (including me)," Ms Allison Piwowarski wrote in a post on Twitter. "I thought hell started tomorrow?"

Making the situation worse was the temporary closing of a runway at La Guardia for emergency pavement work at about the same time, said Ms Cheryl Albiez, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. The runway reopened at about 11.45am, she said, but the shutdown created a separate series of flight delays.

The operations at the airport were briefly halted for Mr Trump's flight, but the primary factor behind the delays was the runway maintenance, according to a federal aviation official who was briefed on the operations but was not authorised to discuss them publicly. The official declined to discuss plans for Mr Trump's air travel as president, citing security concerns.

At about noon, Mr Trump's plane landed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The president-elect exited the aircraft with Mrs Melania Trump, his wife, and left for a lunch at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

With Mrs Melania Trump and the couple's son Barron planning to stay in New York, it is not yet clear how often Mr Trump will travel back and forth from the White House and what route he might take. A spokeswoman for Mr Trump did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday about his future travel plans.

But New Yorkers are already dealing with travel headaches near his home at Trump Tower in Manhattan, and some worried that things could get worse once he occupies the Oval Office. Some transportation experts have called for Fifth Avenue to be transformed into a street just for pedestrians and buses.

Mr Samuel I. Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner, said it was unlikely Mr Trump would fly into La Guardia Airport while he is president. The airport is known for having logistical constraints, he said, and Mr Trump would probably fly to Kennedy Airport and take a helicopter to Lower Manhattan, as President Barack Obama frequently did.

Mr Trump could then be taken by motorcade north to Trump Tower, leaving a wake of street closings in his path.

"Starting tomorrow, the world will change for him, and he will not suffer in gridlock," Mr Schwartz said.

But for New Yorkers, gridlock seems inevitable. Ms Rebecca Lentjes, 27, of Brooklyn, was flying into La Guardia Airport from St. Louis on Thursday when her plane was delayed because of Mr Trump's trip. Ms Lentjes said she was dozing on her flight when she heard the words "President-elect" and "Trump" over the intercom, and the crew said their plane could not land until his had taken off.

She arrived in New York about an hour later than scheduled. Before she left the airport in a shared Uber ride, she and other passengers commiserated over their predicament.

"Once I landed back on home turf, we were all saying he's already inconveniencing us," she said. "This is what the next four years are going to be like."