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5 Reasons I Always Fly Into JFK Airport When Visiting New York City

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James Larounis
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James Larounis

Senior Content Contributor

563 Published Articles 1 Edited Article

Countries Visited: 30U.S. States Visited: 35

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...
Edited by: Stella Shon
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Stella Shon

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With a degree in media and journalism, Stella has been in the points and miles game for more than 6 years. She most recently worked as a Corporate Communications Analyst for JetBlue. Find her work in ...

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When traveling to New York City, I always prefer to fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) over LaGuardia Airport (LGA) — even though the latter is the closest airport to Manhattan.

Let’s look at the 5 reasons I think JFK is the better New York-area airport to fly into.

1. More Flights To Choose From

Like Reagan Airport in Washington, D.C., LaGuardia Airport has restrictions on the flight distances it can serve. If you’re looking for a long-haul or cross-country flight, you’ll likely have to fly out of JFK Airport anyway, which provides a bevy of options.

Japan Airlines gate at JFK
Japan Airlines gate at JFK. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Furthermore, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines claim both LaGuardia and JFK as hubs. Both airlines will operate shorter domestic flights out of LaGuardia and longer flights predominantly out of JFK.

2. You Can Get a Flat Fare Taxi to Manhattan

If you’re taking a taxi to Manhattan, you can always find a flat-fare ride of $70 (without tip) out of JFK. This means that no matter the amount of traffic, you’ll always pay a set price to most locations in Manhattan. This can be especially useful when traffic is horrendous, as it often is, to be guaranteed to ride at a certain price.

Taxi Cab New York
A flat-fare taxi may be the right call for a couple or family. Image Credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

If traveling with multiple passengers, you can all use 1 taxi and easily split the ride. In the end, the taxi fare may come out less than using the AirTrain and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), as I’ll explain below.

3. Rail and Metro Options

Oddly enough, LaGuardia Airport does not have a direct rail link. To get to the subway, you must take a bus from the airport to the nearest subway station, which can take some time, depending on traffic. After all, time is money!

At JFK, take the AirTrain, which stops at all terminals. It will take you to Jamaica Station within 10 minutes and catch any Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train bound for Penn Station or Grand Central. When you arrive at Jamaica Station, take a look at the departures board and find a train departing within the next few minutes. (You could also take the E, J, or Z subway lines to the city for only $2.90 one-way, but there are many local stops.)

Long Island Rail Road
The fastest way to get from JFK to Manhattan is by taking the LIRR. Image Credit: Stella Shon

I personally find rail transportation to be guaranteed. There’s no risk of traffic, and the Air Train and LIRR trains usually run on time, so it’s a predictable way to get to Manhattan within a specified amount of time.

Screenshot
Your ticketing options on the MTA Train Time app. Image Credit: MTA

When taking the train, you’ll need to account for an $8.50 ticket just to ride the Air Train to Jamaica station, and then either $8.25 (off-peak) or $11.25 (peak) LIRR ride to Penn Station or Grand Central.

Hot Tip:

You can purchase LIRR tickets on the MTA Train Time app (iOS, Android). If you’re taking the train outside of the windows of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the weekdays, you can purchase a discounted City Pass as seen in the screenshot above, which will only cost you $5 to get from Jamaica Station to Manhattan.

4. Easier Access to Long Island and Other Areas

JFK Airport isn’t much farther out on Long Island than LaGuardia Airport by distance. All things considered, they’re relatively close.

Long Island Railroad
There are nearly 1,000 daily trains on the LIRR. Image Credit: Metropolitan Transit Authority

However, JFK is much better situated if you visit points east on Long Island, starting with Nassau County and moving out towards Garden City and Uniondale, thanks to the extensive rail network of the LIRR. If you’re not headed into Manhattan, JFK is a much better airport to fly into than LaGuardia.

Similarly, JFK is the closer airport to Staten Island and Brooklyn, so if you’re traveling to those boroughs, JFK will be your best bet. As with all of NYC, traffic can be quite bad, so ensure you’re allowing plenty of time to reach your final destination.

5. Airfares Out of JFK Tend To Be Cheaper

I find that you can save some money by flying into JFK rather than LaGuardia, where Delta, JetBlue, and American all compete as domestic U.S. airlines. Because of this, and the increased capacity at JFK, airfare tends to be quite reasonable.

JetBlue tailfins at JFK
JetBlue, otherwise known as New York’s Hometown Airline, at JFK. Image Credit: Daniel Ross

In addition, because of all of the international airlines, flying abroad can be relatively cheap compared to JFK. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is held captive by United Airlines and its fortress hub there, while flights at LaGuardia are relatively high due to its preferability among business travelers.

Why JFK Might Not Be the Best Airport For You

JFK is a great airport, but there are a few downsides:

  • Because JFK is farther than LaGuardia, you need to factor in traffic to and from the airport — at least 90 minutes during rush hour.
  • LaGuardia Airport is known for its “shuttle” flights, especially those to Washington, D.C., and Boston. These regular flights are unique to LaGuardia.
  • JFK is a massive airport, and navigating connections between terminals isn’t easy. You may find it easier to fly into Newark or LaGuardia.
  • Like many airports, JFK is undergoing a lot of construction and renovation. Traffic may be impacted by this, so you may want to consider this added time when flying into or out of JFK.

Final Thoughts

When flying into New York City, JFK is my preferred airport. It has the best transportation options to Manhattan, and there are also a lot more flights to the airport I can choose from.

While LaGuardia is closer to the city, I still find JFK better for the average traveler. I will recommend it to anyone who asks!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much time does it take to change terminals in JFK?

The Air Train from one terminal to another only takes about 10-15 minutes from the farthest terminal, but you’ll also need to account for waiting time until the train arrives.

Do I really need to get to JFK 3 hours before flight?

If you’re flying out on an international flight, the general recommendation is to arrive 3 hours prior to departure. If you’re coming from Manhattan, leave plenty of time to account for traffic.

Do you have to go through security again when switching terminals at JFK?

Each terminal at JFK is independent of the other, so if you need to leave one terminal to go to another, you’ll need to go through security again in that new terminal.

Which terminal does American Airlines use at JFK?

American Airlines uses Terminal 8 at New York JFK Airport.

James Larounis's image

About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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