John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is a busy airport for its size, transporting over 59 million passengers annually. Traffic congestion around the airport is reasonable, with good public transport connections around New York City and beyond.
JFK’s automated people mover, the AirTrain, makes it quick and convenient to move between terminals, while also transporting passengers to the outskirts of the airport for car rental services, pick-up and drop-off stations, and long-term parking. This eases central airport congestion further.
JFK Airport Layout
JFK has 6 terminals numbered 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8, and are located on the outside of a rectangular loop, with vehicle access and parking on the inside. The inside of the loop is landside, or pre-security, where all passengers and visitors can access, and the outside areas are airside, or post-security, where only passengers with a valid ticket are permitted.
The loop is defined by the AirTrain tracks, which is the way to get from one terminal to another, operating landside. None of the terminals interconnect with airside walkways, so you do need to go through security again for a flight connection, apart from Terminals 2 and 4 where there is an airside bus.
Facilities vary considerably between terminals, so if you’re looking to shop or grab a bite to eat before heading airside, then it’s best to check what options are available in your terminal. You can check this information on the airport’s website.
JFK Ground Transportation Pre-Security
Interterminal transportation revolves around the AirTrain, and there are a few different lines you can ride depending on your destination. To move from one terminal to another, you can ride all lines for free, with the yellow line running in a clockwise loop and stopping at all terminals. The full loop takes around 8 minutes and operates 24/7.
The red line runs counterclockwise at all terminals, starting and ending at Jamaica Station. The green line runs counterclockwise to all terminals, also stopping at Federal Circle, where the car rental center is located, and Lefferts Boulevard, where Long Term Parking Lot 9/Kiss & Fly drop-off area is located, before continuing to Howard Beach Station.
If you’re riding the AirTrain between terminals, to Federal Circle, or Lefferts Boulevard, then your ride will be free. If you start or end your journey at Jamaica or Howard Beach then a one-way trip will cost $5.
Hot Tip: All AirTrain stations are accessible directly from the terminal, apart from Terminal 2 where you need to walk outside to access the station.
JFK doesn’t encourage walking between terminals as the roads are busy on the inside of the airport loop. However, there are sidewalks available, and it is possible to walk between some of the terminals that are closer together, such as Terminals 1 and 2, and Terminals 4 and 5.
JFK Ground Transportation Post-Security
Connecting between Terminals 2 and 4
This is the only post-security transportation option available at JFK and is a shuttle bus operated by Delta. The Jitney shuttle bus is free for passengers and runs between Terminal 2 near gate C60, and Terminal 4 near gates B54 and B18.
This post-security option is available so that passengers do not need to re-clear security again; however, there have been some comments from passengers indicating they did have to re-clear security upon arrival at the next terminal.
Layout of Terminals at JFK
JFK Terminal 1
Terminal 1 consists of 11 gates, numbered 1 through 11, and mostly serves international flights. Passing through security, Gates 4 through 11 are down the long corridor straight ahead of you, and Gates 1 through 3 are to the right. Shops and restaurants are located on the Concourse Level, and there is a food court pre-security on the Mezzanine Level.
When connecting from Terminal 1, you’ll need to take the escalator or elevator from the arrivals and departures level, walk through the connector tunnel that has moving walkways, and take the AirTrain to your next terminal.
JFK Terminal 2
Terminal 2 consists of 11 gates numbered C60 through C70 and is operated predominately by Delta for its domestic flights. Some other domestic flights on other airlines do arrive and depart from these gates as well.
All shops and restaurants are located post-security in Terminal 2, with only a coffee shop on the arrivals level that is outside of the secure area. Passing through security, you’ll find the facilities in the center and the gates around the outside. Gates C66-C70 are on the right, and Gates C60-C65 are on the left side.
If you’re connecting from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4, then you can ride the Jitney shuttle bus from near gate C60. If you’re connecting to another terminal, then you will need to exit the terminal to the right and take the elevator or escalator up to the AirTrain.
JFK Terminal 4
Terminal 4 consists of 42 gates over 2 concourses and is the main terminal for international flights. The gates are numbered A2 through A7 in Concourse A, and B18, B20, and B22 through B55 in Concourse B. Gates B42-B51 are on the lower level.
As you pass through security, you’ll need to take the escalator or elevator down to the Departures Level where Concourse A is to the left and Concourse B to the right. Shops, bars, and restaurants are located in the departures area, as well as in the concourses.
Hot Tip: If connecting from Terminal 4 to Terminal 2, then you can ride the Jitney shuttle bus from near gates B54 and B18. If you’re connecting to any other terminals, then you will need to take the escalator or lift from arrivals to the AirTrain on level 3.
JFK Terminal 5
Terminal 5 has 29 gates numbered 1 through 12 and 14 through 30 and is operated mainly by JetBlue, although other airlines do depart and arrive here. Domestic and short-haul international flights are served from this terminal.
When you clear security, you’ll have Gates 22 through 30 to the left, Gates 1 through 7 to the right, and Gates 8 through 12, and Gates 14 through 21 straight ahead along the long corridor. Terminal 5 has shops and restaurants located pre-security and a wide selection after security.
Hot Tip: If connecting from Terminal 5, then you would need to take the escalator or elevator from arrivals to the Skywalk, where there are moving walkways to take you to the AirTrain.
JFK Terminal 7
Terminal 7 has 13 gates numbered 1 through 11, 11A, and 12, operating international flights. When you clear security, you will need to take the elevator to the departures level where Gates 1 through 6 are to the left, Gates 7 and 8 are straight ahead, and Gates 9 through 11, 11A, and 12 are to the right.
There are very few places to eat or shop before passing through security, with just a Starbucks and Subway in the arrivals hall. Post-security, there is a food hall and plenty of shops to wait out your flight departure.
If you’re connecting from Terminal 7, then you’ll need to take the elevator or escalator upstairs to the AirTrain.
JFK Terminal 8
Terminal 8 has 29 gates split across Concourse B and Concourse C. Once you’ve passed through security, you’ll enter Concourse B first with Gates 1 through 8, 10, and 12 to the left and Gates 14 and 16 to the right.
To reach Concourse C, you’ll need to go straight from security and walk to the terminal via the underground tunnel. Gates 31 through 42 are to the left and Gates 43 through 47 are to the right.
There are a few cafes, restaurants, and shops pre-security in Terminal 8, with the majority located post-security in the food court or concourses.
If you’re connecting from Terminal 8, then you will need to take the elevator or escalator upstairs to the AirTrain.
Flight Connections at JFK
For all domestic to domestic, and domestic to international flight connections from a different terminal (apart from between Terminals 2 and 4,) you’ll need to exit the terminal and re-clear security. If you’ve booked 2 flights on 1 reservation, then double-check any checked luggage is tagged through to your final destination.
If you’re connecting between domestic flights or domestic to international, and your onward flight departs from the same terminal you arrive into, then you wouldn’t have to re-clear security (provided you have an onward boarding card and your luggage doesn’t need re-checking.)
For international to international, or international to domestic connections, passengers will have to clear immigration, claim baggage, and then clear customs. After passing through customs, there are recheck counters available for bags tagged to an onward destination.
Hot Tip: Be sure to leave plenty of time to transfer to the next terminal as security checkpoint times can vary, and consider whether you will have to check-in and bag-drop if you’ve booked two flights separately.
All terminals at JFK are accessible to those with mobility issues and wheelchair users. There are elevator stationed at all level changes and for access to the AirTrain, where each train has 2 designated wheelchair areas. All airlines offer accessibility services if you request this before your flight.
Hopping on the AirTrain is a quick and convenient way to get between terminals at JFK. The only downside is the lack of post-security transportation, unlike the post-security people-mover at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. However, Atlanta receives criticism about not having enough pre-security transportation options, so there’s no right or wrong answer here.
As the terminals have received renovations at different times over the years, there is a clear difference between facilities and modernization of each building. If you’re arriving early or are planning a layover at JFK, then be sure to check out the restaurants and shops available to you pre-security, to establish whether you would be better off waiting out your time at another terminal.
For more information about JFK, check out this in-depth review that has everything travelers need to know about JFK.