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What to Do When Your Flight Is Delayed at New York's Airports

By Amber Ray | February 13, 2014 7:49am
 How to kill time at Newark, LaGuardia and JFK airports.
What to Do in a Flight Delay
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NEW YORK CITY — There are worse places to be snowbound than one of New York City's airports.

As officials warned of flight cancellations Thursday at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airports in the midst of a storm that was expected to drop up to 14 inches of snow, sleet and rain on the five boroughs, there were plenty of reasons for travelers to complain.

But rather than live-tweeting the chaos at your gate as your flight becomes increasingly delayed, you could do something a little more inspiring: Get a rejuvenating facial, sit down to authentic tapas, or sip a cocktail dreamed up by a world-renowned mixologist.

Even when the skies are sunny and clear, modern air travel practically guarantees extra time at the airport — and airlines are offering amenities to make the wait a little less painful when you're stuck in place because of mechanical trouble, runway traffic or because your airline simply doesn't have the crew to fly your plane.

Here are the best ways to kill time once you're through security at New York's three major airports:

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR):

Less than an hour:
Despite your best negotiation attempts, your favorite moisturizer and lip gloss got confiscated at security. The 3-ounce rule is still in effect, and now you will never forget it.

No need to go off-brand for your replacements. Get Shea Butter Hand Cream from L'Occitane (Terminal C, on the way to Gates C120-139), and tinted Lipglass by MAC (Terminal C, inside the Duty Free shop nearest Gates C120-139).

1-2 hours:
It's no polar vortex, but that storm outside isn't going anywhere.

Whether you're 30 minutes from takeoff, or delayed an extra half hour, calm your nerves with a massage and manicure at d_parture spa (Terminal C1, Gate 92; and Terminal C2, Gate 110).

"We can turn 10 minutes of a client's time into 20 by having two services done at the same time," said Gina Stern, founder of d_parture spa. "We work with whatever our world-weary and time-poor travelers have, all in an effort to change their travel experience for the better."

If you've got more time to kill, Stern recommends the Total Experience, a 45-minute treatment that combines chair massage, foot massage and hand and forearm massage. Let everyone else fret over the next Snowmageddon.

3+ hours:
Your presentation was a bust, you missed your connecting flight, and to add insult to injury, you're now stuck in Newark. Take a deep breath and ask yourself: What would Don Draper do?

Well, he'd probably hop a cab into Manhattan. But you're scheduled to take off in three hours and it's rush hour, so you're not feeling quite that brave. Instead, start your unintentionally long layover at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, (Terminal C, Gates C70-99) where you can pair raw bar options with a pint as if you were in Midtown.

For the main course, move over to Gallagher's Steakhouse (Terminal C, Gate C120-139), an offshoot of the Manhattan mainstay, where you're expected to linger and savor the signature New York aged-prime beef. The EWR location even features the same red-checkered tablecloths as the original restaurant on 52nd Street.

Next, spruce up your wardrobe with a stop at Brooks Brothers (Terminal C, Gates C70-99). If you're going to hear it from the boss on Monday morning, you might as well look like you could have pulled off that deal.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK):

Less than an hour:
You need a fast meal, but big-chain fast food is out of the question.

Turn to the only chain restaurant where you've willingly waited in a 30-minute line for a burger. Shake Shack has a JFK outpost (Terminal 4, Gate B36) where all of your favorites are on the menu.

1-2 hours:
The strap on your laptop case broke when it got caught in the x-ray machine going through security.

If that's a good enough excuse to splurge on yourself, head to Terminal 1 or 7, where retail options include such high-end shops as Coach, Hermes, (Terminal 1), Armani, (Terminal 7) and Ferragamo, (Terminals 1 and 7). For true retail therapy, get a belt and shoes to coordinate with that new bag.

3+ hours:
Your cab broke down on the Belt Parkway and you missed your flight. Luckily, you snagged the last seat on the next plane to your destination — four hours from now.

JFK is JetBlue's home and the airline has aimed to make it as welcoming to travelers as possible.

“Known by locals as 'T5,' JetBlue’s state-of-the-art terminal delivers the latest and greatest in airport experiences," said Mitch Nadler, director of concessions for JetBlue.

When it comes to dining, T5 has both comfort and innovation — from the bistro La Vie (Terminal 5, Gate 22 concourse entrance) which serves French classics such as ratatouille, to the small plates at Piquillo (Terminal 5, in the marketplace), the first tapas restaurant in a U.S. airport. For $25, buy a pass to the private Airspace Lounge (Terminal 5, near Gate 24), where light snacks are free.

Then browse the minimalist's haven for housewares, Muji, (Terminal 5, in the marketplace) where you can score Japanese pens and notebooks to chronicle your travels the old-fashioned way.

If you're flying Virgin America (First Class or Main Cabin Select, or you are an Elevate Gold member) or Virgin Atlantic (in the Upper Class cabin, or you're a Flying Club Gold member), make a beeline for the airlines' JFK Clubhouse, (Terminal 4, A Concourse above Gates A4 and A5). Splurge on the $75 day pass and enjoy complimentary signature cocktails (in-the-know travelers order the "secret" drink, the Golden Girl), sophisticated dining options, and spa treatments, including services from Bumble and Bumble stylists, in a chic setting that would rival any trendy boutique hotel. It's airport time-killing at its finest.

John Kennedy, a composer, conductor and regular traveler to New York City, has flown through Terminal 5 several times and finds its offerings a respite from the average airport experience.

JetBlue's terminal gets high marks from Kennedy for a food court that is "surprisingly inexpensive for an airport and extremely well-organized."

His favorite T5 restaurants include Deep Blue Sushi and Re Vive Bar, which he called "maybe the best airport bar I have ever been to."

"Honestly," Kennedy said, "I think this terminal is the most pleasant U.S. air travel terminal ever developed, and I hope it is being studied. It is really nice that the terminal is not, like most others, a mishmash of the bad fast-food giants, with all of the bad smells and charms of a dated strip mall."

LaGuardia Airport (LGA):

Less than an hour:
You haven't been home to see mom in more than a year. Maybe you should show up with something other than your smiling face to make up for that?

Stop by the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store (Terminal B, pre-security, food court near Gates D) for note cards bearing works by her favorite Impressionist painters, or a scarf inspired by Tiffany.

1-2 hours:
You overestimated the amount time you'd be watching your fellow passengers struggle with their shoelaces and laptop cases and you've now got two hours to kill.

If you're in the mood for a beer, the Sam Adams Bar (Terminal B, near Gate 8) raises the bar for sports bars. You'll find the Boston Beer Company's seasonal brews on tap and plenty of screens playing the game. Bites include above average sandwiches.

Master sommelier Roger Dagorn has composed a list of more than 100 premium wines from around the world, all available to order by the glass at wibar (Terminal C). Small plates include selections of pate and cheese, right at the bar.

3+ hours:
Your flight's been delayed so many times, you're seriously considering going home and coming back later. Well, at least you can eat like you're still in Manhattan.

Thanks to major renovations in 2012, the Delta terminal has become its own destination of sorts (well, in LGA at least). With so many restaurants developed by big-name chefs in Terminals C and D, you'd think you were walking down Tenth Avenue in Chelsea.

"We saw such a wonderful opportunity to elevate the customer experience," said Sean Aziz, director of communications for OTG, the company that manages concessions in the terminal. "New York is the dining capital of the world, and travelers flying in to and out of Delta LGA are incredibly savvy, so we wanted to bring a dining program that represented the best of the city."

Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, the duo formerly behind Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Pastis, brought their renowned quality to the Provencal-inspired bistro Bisoux (Terminal D, Gates 3-4). You can order the croque monsieur or duck confit to go, but the food — and drinks concocted by celebrated mixologist Tad Carducci — deserve a leisurely pace.

Famed butcher Pat LaFrieda helped develop and source the meat blend used at Custom Burgers (Terminal D, food court), where your gourmet creation is grilled to order. Don't forget a milkshake, made in-house.

We don't need a celebrity chef to sway us toward Mexican cuisine, but Aaron Sanchez (of Fonda and Centrico) is one of the best, and his take on torta and tacos using locally grown produce at Vuelo Taqueria (Terminal C, food court), lives up to the hype.

Or grab a slice of your favorite Brooklyn pizza, served in Queens: Tagliare (Terminal D, food court) serves up NY-style slices by the DeMarco family, who have been operating Di Fara Pizza for generations.

Wash it all down at Biergarten, (Terminal C, food court) where the selection of 24 brews on tap has been curated by Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery.

Still have time to kill? OTG has created an iPad "experience" for travelers, allowing them to use the devices free of charge throughout the terminal. You can access real-time flight information, browse the Internet, or even order another Brooklyn Lager, right from the app.