I often get asked what is the best way to get to JFK Airport. Asking for directions to JFK sounds like a simple question but the answer is it depends. Are you pressed for time? Are you trying to save money? Do you have a lot of bags? What terminal are you going to? Will you be traveling to JFK during rush hour (7-9 am or 4-7pm)? The transportation options can be overwhelming, especially if it is your first time going to JFK or trying to go from JFK to Manhattan.
In this post, I will share information to help you decide on the best way to JFK airport. This information will also help you figure out the best way to get from JFK to Manhattan.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more information.
About John F. Kennedy International Airport
JFK was built to relieve the overcrowding at nearby LaGuardia Airport. When it opened in 1948, it was called New York International or Idelwild Airport, but after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, the airport was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport as a tribute.
The airport is located in the Jamaica neighborhood in the borough of Queens New York, which is about 16 miles from midtown Manhattan. Kennedy airport has six passenger terminals (connected by the AirTrain) and four runways. More than ninety airlines fly from the airport and it is a hub for both American and Delta airlines. JetBlue uses JFK as its primary operating base.
JFK Airport Transportation Options
You could choose from the subway, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), taxi/uber/car service, NY Airporter express bus, or a door to door airport shuttle. If you have a car, you can drive too. All of these options have their pros and cons. Choosing the right transportation option for you will depend on your circumstances. Let’s examine each one so that you can make an educated decision.
Additional NYC Airport information:
If you need to transfer between JFK and another NYC area airport, check out my post about transferring between NYC airports.
If you are flying in or out of Newark Airport, check out my post about the best options for traveling between EWR and Manhattan.
If you are flying in or out of LaGuardia Airport, check out my post about how to get to Manhattan from LGA.
Subway to JFK Airport
The cheapest way to get to JFK is the subway (A or E train). Coming from midtown, I take the E to the Sutphin Blvd-Archer Avenue stop which connects to the Jamaica AirTrain station. You would then take the AirTrain to JFK.
If you are coming from Brooklyn, to get to JFK by subway, you would take the A to Howard Beach and then the AirTrain. You can use Google Maps to find the best route to or from your specific location. Be sure to download the map in advance so you can use it even if you don’t have any data service.
During peak hours the E comes pretty frequently, but late at night or early in the morning you may have to wait. When the E is running express, it doesn’t take that long, but when the E is running local or has service issues it can seem like it takes forever.
Depending on where you get on the subway you may have to deal with some stairs, which can be a pain with luggage. Not all subway stations have elevators and I don’t recommend using elevators at the ones that do have them unless you absolutely have to. From my experience, the smell inside is toxic (and I am only exaggerating slightly).
Cost: The subway fare is the standard $2.75 (or included if you have an unlimited MetroCard) and then the AirTrain is another $7.75. Total – $10.50 (or $7.75 if you have an unlimited MetroCard) each way.
Bus – NYC Airporter to JFK
The NYC Airporter bus (now called the NYC Express Bus) can be a good option for getting to JFK from Manhattan, especially if you are close to Grand Central and have a lot of bags. The driver will help you load (and unload) your luggage in the back of the bus. It is a lot cheaper than a car, and you can buy tickets in advance online or on the bus.
The bus only runs every 20-30 minutes from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and can be delayed if there is traffic. It also has to make stops at every terminal, so if your flight is at the last terminal the bus ride will be longer. According to the NYC Airporter website, the travel time on the bus from Grand Central to JFK is 90 minutes.
The bus does have free WIFI, although it has never worked that well for me. There are also power outlets so you can charge your electronics.
Cost: $35 round trip or $19 each way. Children 5 and under ride free.
Train – LIRR to JFK Airport
The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) is another option for public transportation to JFK. I would pick up the LIRR train to JFK from Penn Station, but there are stops in Brooklyn and Queens as well. The Long Island Railroad also connects with the AirTrain at Jamaica station.
The train is faster than the subway but does not run as frequently (check the schedule here). It is also more expensive. You will need to allow extra time to purchase the ticket and also figure out what platform the train will be on. Since the schedule is not as convenient and it takes me longer to get to Penn Station than the subway, I don’t think it saves enough time to justify the extra cost. It is also difficult with luggage.
Cost: From Penn Station, it is $10.75 each way peak or $7.75 off-peak or even more if you buy your ticket onboard the train. You also still have to pay the $7.75 JFK AirTrain fare. Total – $18.50 peak times and $15.50 off-peak each way.
Door to Door JFK Airport Shuttle
The best shuttle to JFK is Go Airlink NYC. They offer an airport shuttle to JFK which picks you up at your door and I have found them to be slightly cheaper than other similar shuttle options. Most likely you will also be making stops to pick up other passengers, so it is not going to be the fastest option. However, since it is door to door service, it could make things a lot easier if you have a lot of luggage, and so the extra time might be worth it.
Cost: Rides start at $25 per person each way.
As long as it is not rush hour and there are no accidents, this will be the fastest way to JFK airport, but it is also the most expensive. It may be worth it if you are tight on time and/or you need help with your luggage.
There is fixed cab fare from JFK to Manhattan of $52 plus toll and tip. Sometimes drivers will charge you the fixed fare going to the airport as well. Uber will be about the same (unless there is surge pricing). I have found deals on uber pool as low as $35 including toll, so that could be a good option especially if there are two people in your party.
Car services can vary a lot in price and many need to be booked in advance. I think the best car service to JFK airport is Carmel. They have special airport pricing which usually ends up being about the same as (or sometimes even less than) a taxi, but the cars are much nicer. Also, you can book online in advance and earn frequent flyer miles with most airlines for your trip to or from the airport. Carmel also has a handy app.
I should mention you should never accept a ride from the drivers that come up and ask you if you need a taxi. This is against the law and many of these drivers are not properly insured.
Cost: Quotes for fares do not include tax or tip. The fare for taking a car to JFK can vary depending on where exactly you are coming from, what type of car, and if you are able to get a discount and range from $40 – $150. However, this can be split between everyone traveling, there are no fees for additional passengers.
Driving to JFK
If you have a car, you can always drive to JFK, but you will still need to allow time for traffic and parking. Parking at the airport is expensive, but you can save money if you book airport parking in advance. You can find some deals on parking for JFK Airport on Parking Access here.
The Verdict on JFK Transportation Options
So in summary, all of the options have their pros and cons. When I am traveling for work, I think the best way to get to JFK from Manhattan is to take a car service or taxi, unless it is during rush hour. However, if I am trying to be frugal or it is rush hour, I will take the subway. If I have a lot of luggage and want to be frugal I would take the bus.
So what do you think is the best route to JFK?
Have a safe flight!
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Last Updated on March 28, 2021