The Pros and Cons of all Four NYC Airports

Whether you’re a first time visitor to the Big Apple or travel to or from there frequently, one of the most important questions to find the answer to is which of the four airports that serve the city to use. LaGuardia, JFK, Newark and Stewart are all in varying directions from the island of Manhattan and vary greatly in the length of time they take to commute to and how much that commute will cost. This post will break down the pros and cons of each of these airports and offer an insight from someone who has used all four in recent years and recommend why and why not you should consider flying into each of these airports.

For the purposes of this post I’ll be discussing commuting into Midtown Manhattan and the relevant prices to there. Further travel will cost you more as the majority of the public transport services drop you either at Penn Station on 34th Street or the Port Authority Bus Station on 41st between 7th and 8th Avenues.

  • John F. Kennedy (Queens, NY): Arguably the most well known of all four airports, JFK is one o f the busiest airports in the US and serves routes flying to all corners of the globe. Whilst JFK undoubtedly serves more routes than LaGuardia and Stewart, both its internal and international flights are on a similar par in price with its counterparts, so that need not contribute to your decision on whether to fly there or not. In terms of getting to and from the airport to the city, there are several ways to commute from JFK:
  1. Uber: Depending on the usual variables for Uber such as traffic, time of day and demand for cars, this option can range from $35 to $163. The good thing about Uber is that unlike a taxi, you verify what you pay before you get in the car. If there’s more than a couple of people splitting the bill then this is potentially the most economical and convenient way to travel into the city, so long as you ensure you do the math beforehand. In traffic, the journey will take around an hour.
  2. Shuttle Bus: There are a few shuttle services from JFK, with most of them costing between $17 and $20 to drop you close to either Penn Station or the Port Authority. You needn’t purchase tickets beforehand as there are tens leaving every hour, so in case of delay or a need to stop for food or a change of clothes at the airport, I’d recommend just paying the driver on the spot. In traffic, the journey will take around an hour.
  3. Train/ Subway: The train and subway is undoubtedly the most complex of all three travel options, but it’s also the cheapest. The AirTrain links all eight terminals at JFK to four stations closer to the city. It will cost you $5 plus a $1 fee for a MetroCard to get off at both Jamaica (E, J and Z lines) and Howard Beach (A line). From there, you can travel to Manhattan at $2.75 per ride. If you’re in New York for a while, I highly recommend investing in the 7 day pass as it is more than worth the money if you plan to travel around via the subway system. The journey will take around 40 minutes.img_8193
  • Newark Liberty (Newark, NJ): Although a lot of people often turn their nose up at Jersey, in my opinion Newark is the best airport to fly into New York to. As a general rule of thumb, international flights are slightly cheaper than those on the same routes to JFK, and there are direct public transport links between the airport and Penn Station. It doesn’t do well in terms of customer service reviews, so know that before heading there:
  1. Uber: An UberX from Newark to Penn Station will cost you in the region of $75. If you’re arriving at rush hour in the morning or evening then I would advise against taking an Uber or taxi purely because your journey price will be inflated dramatically. It is also important to note that there is a $20 surcharge on all journeys between New Jersey and New York states. The journey will take up to an hour in traffic.
  2. Shuttle Bus: Just like JFK, shuttle companies are a dime a dozen at Newark and the price is around $17 to $20. It’s easy enough to buy a ticket there and then, so I’d recommend buying it there to avoid international fees when booking in advance online. The journey will take up to an hour in traffic.
  3. Train: You will need to take an AirTrain to the Newark Liberty International Airport Station which is under 10 minutes from each terminal, and from there you can take the NJ Transit, PATH or Amtrak to Penn Station. From personal experience and comparing the prices, I recommend taking the NJ Transit as it costs only $13 for a regular ticket and $9 for concessions. The train from the station to Penn Station will take 30 minutes.img_8194
  • LaGuardia (Queens, NY): Broadly speaking, LaGuardia serves mainly domestic flights or ones to closer international locations such as Canada and the Caribbean. If you’re flying internally in the US, I’ve found that on the whole flights from LaGuardia tend to be the cheapest. At the moment it is going through a complete overhaul and for that reason I would strongly advise against flying into or out of the airport.
  1. Car service: I include this in this section because car services from the city to LaGuardia are actually pretty reasonable. Three years ago, I took a car with my family from Orchard Street on the border of Chinatown and Little Italy (ALL the way downtown) and the car all the way uptown and over to Queens cost us just $50 plus a tip.
  2. Uber: An UberX will cost around $65 to $75, so it may be worth looking into independent car services if you’d rather travel by the comfort of a private car. Both options will take around 40 minutes to Midtown Manhattan.
  3. Shuttle bus: Much the same as the other options, shuttles to LaGuardia cost around $17. In all honesty, if you’re going to pay this much per head I would recommend either taking the public transport system into the city or splitting a car or Uber with the people you’re travelling with. This will take around 40 minutes.
  4. Public transport: The quickest way to get between Manhattan and LaGuardia via public transport is to take the bus and then the subway downtown. You can take the Q70-SBS bus to Roosevelt Avenue-Jackson Heights (E line). This option will take around the same time as private transfers, so if you don’t mind hauling a suitcase on a bus and subway then I would really recommend saving a small fortune in commuting costs and taking public transportation. img_8195
  • Stewart (New Windsor, NY): The newest of the four airports to start serving the city, Stewart’s popularity as an international airport has skyrocketed in the past few years thanks to the budget airline Norwegian Air. If you’d like to learn more about my personal experience flying into this airport with that very airline, you can watch my vlog all about it here. Stewart is such a great airport because you can travel to NYC for less than half than if you flew to the others, but there are some downsides. The airport is around 70 miles north of Manhattan, but the commute takes just a fraction longer than from JFK and Newark. Norwegian Air provide shuttle buses to the Port Authority that coincide with their arriving flights, and there is a train station nearby that services both New Jersey and New York (city and upstate). It is truly one of the most beautiful airports I’ve flown into, and if you don’t mind flying budget then it might be worth looking into.
  1. Uber: An Uber from Stewart International start at around $130, which may seem steep, but it’s important to consider the distance over which the car is travelling. If you are travelling in a group of four, then I would recommend exploring this more purely on the basis of comfort and convenience. The drive will take around an hour and 45 minutes.
  2. Shuttle: The Norwegian Air shuttle service costs $20 for adults and $10 for children aged between 5 and 11. The journey takes around an hour and 30 minutes in each direction and drops passengers at the Port Authority Bus Station between 7th and 8th Avenues. For reference, if you plan on meeting someone in the city then tell them to meet you at the corner opposite The New York Times’ offices.
  3. Train: The shuttle from the airport to Beacon Station costs $1 per passenger and must be paid in cash to the driver. From there, you can take the Metro North line to either Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street or to Hoboken, New Jersey via Salisbury Mills, which will cost $11.50.img_8196

Had you asked me this question two months ago, I would always have recommended flying into Newark or JFK, dependent on where you could get the best flight price from. Whilst I still feel both are great airports, and recommend them highly if you can find flights at a decent price, I would definitely suggest looking into using Norwegian to fly across the Atlantic to Stewart. Most of the time, you can fly round trip to places in the US for prices similar to the major tourist destinations in Europe. If you don’t mind flying budget, then it is definitely worth your time exploring the option.

For more information on flying with Norwegian Air, watch my vlog here. To subscribe to my YouTube channel, click here. For more posts like this directly to your inbox, subscribe to my blog at www.caitlinjeanrussell.com/subscribe.

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29 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of all Four NYC Airports

  1. Great post! I HATE flying into New York, I love going but I absolutely HATE IT! I fly into JFK because it is 15 minutes away from family, so the convenience is everything but the craziness of leaving makes me hostile almost. Always waiting forever on the runway to leave, always, flight always delayed, security always short of staff regardless of the long lines, you can never hear the gate agents calling the flights, not enough seating. I love going, but hate flying into JFK. I do love the people I meet in the airport from all over the world and depending on the gate area a great bowl of noodles. I will keep flying in though, I have learned that if I have an early morning flight I have less issues. Again, great post and much needed tips and suggestions.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m the same – usually fly to Newark because family are close by in NJ!

  2. I’d like to say, they’re doing lots of work to the subway at the moment, which involves closing random all over the network at the weekends. When I went to NYC in March my carefully laid plans to get the subway from JFK fell apart when I had to get off the train and onto a bus in Queens. The bus took me, and lots of other people, to the next open subway station, but it added to about an hour to my journey. I think the work is continuing until next year.

  3. ive used Newark a couple of times – a long time ago now, there was only the choice of shuttle bus. I think I went through JFK too once, and I remember taking a train from Penn Station I think. Could have been LaGuardia

  4. Great post and overview! I have to admit I hate JFK. I remember my first experience – I had some expectations because the airport is very well-known around the world, and I was eager to compare it to some European ones. I was shocked how disorganised and messy it was. And the security staff treated people like cattle there. One of the worst airport experience I have had in my life.

    1. Totally agree about the security staff. I’ve flown in and out of the US so any times and have never heard people be spoken to like that in my life!

      1. Exactly. I don’t want to give the wrong impression. love New York, America and travelling, but while we are all ladies and gentlemen and Mr and Miss in Heathrow (sort of), I was shouted down in JFK to “stand back in line!”, “move out!” and “watch your line!” as though I just arrived to a prison as a convict and not to JFK as a tourist.

  5. Great post. As a NYC native, JFK has always been my go to airport. True, it does have delays but it’s also the major transfer hub on the east coast for passenger flights and cargo. Air Traffic Control does an incredible job moving flights in and out each day. Your comments on Laguardia are spot on, I flew out of LGA once and never did it again. The construction right now is absolutely insane and the traffic jams will cause even the most relaxed drivers to become tense. The information on Stewart Airport is great, I didn’t know much about it before.

  6. If I could make an addition to the JFK option, as an adopted New Yorker whenever I know of people coming into my city I direct them to do as follows. Take the Air Train to Jamaica station, but instead of taking the subway, take the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) into Manhattan instead. It does cost a few dollars more but it is one train stop away and it takes 15 minutes from Jamaica station. If you are travelling a long way to come to New York then the option to get into Manhattan from the airport in 35 minutes is a godsend. In total, both Airtrain and LIRR costs $15.75 during peak hours, $9 during off peak hours. For convenience alone I would do that in a heartbeat for 15 bucks, one change at Jamaica station and one stop into Manhattan from there, stress free.

  7. Very well presented & valuable information, well done! Flying to/from NYC is a hassle! As a rule, I avoid LaGuardia at all costs, it is a miserable travel experience and has been so for decades. That airport really needs to be razed and completely re-engineered.

    You did, however, leave out 2 other area airports that are domestic alternatives: Westchester Count Airport in White Plains NY and MacArthur Airport in West Islip NY. The former is 35 miles to Penn Station, the latter is 51 miles.

    One caveat to be aware of when looking at the NYC airports, and the only appreciable advantage that JFK has, is when it comes to inclement weather. It has better facilities, better layout & traffic capacity and will handle traffic after the others have closed. Also, more alternatives when faced with missed connections or cancelled flights.

    1. I see! As the majority of my audience are UK based I focused on those you can fly to internationally – but I’ll be sure to leave your comment up so that anybody reading the comments will be able to see! Thanks for the information and for taking the time to read!

  8. JFK is a breeze compared to many other airports. I have family both in Brooklyn and Long Island so it’s the Air Train to Jamaica and the either the J to Brooklyn or the LIRR to Long Islands. Yes the whole MTA system needs upgrading too many old trains even the LIRR but it works for now give the thousand of commuters it moves on a daily basis. It would be nice to relax in more modern trains with USB ports etc.

  9. I’ve tried both JFK and Newark airports in my 2x I’ve been to NY. I’d prefer Newark and if I can avoid JFK I would in a heart beat. The only thing is flying to JFK fr the Philippines is a lot cheaper than Newark. This blog is helpful if only there’s a flight from the Philippines to Stewart or La Guardia. Thanks so much for this.

  10. Nice! Easy to read and has much useful information. We(husband and I) used to travel a lot and airports can be stressful. It is nice that you are trying to be helpful.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you will come back again and find something you can enjoy.

  11. My “like” button doesn’t work so consider this a “like.” I’ve flown through JFK and LaGuardia, avoided Newark and never knew about Stewart, so this post has been a revelation. If I’d known half of this the last time I flew through NYC, I’d have been a heckuva lot more comfortable about ground transportation options. Because of my choice of airline I ended up landing at JFK. Thanks to my brother, I got to NJ in a car, but going back I was on my own. Thanks to you I now know better.

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