New York City Airport Primer

New York City Airport Primer


With 3 major airports serving the greater New York City area, which one should you fly into?


Many people choose their airport based simply on airfare and schedules, and there is no one answer to which is “closest” because it depends entirely on where you are headed in the Big Apple. For comparison purposes though, let’s look at the distance from all the airports to Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.


  • JFK – John F. Kennedy International Airport – 16 miles
  • LGA – LaGuardia Airport – 8.5 miles
  • EWR – Newark International Airport – 17 miles

Here’s a quick overview of each:




J.F.K. International Airport

  • Located in Jamaica, Queens, southeastern part of NYC
  • Base of operations for JetBlue, with a big, beautiful terminal
  • Delta, American and British Airways have a large presence here
  • Busiest airport in the system
  • Primarily handles international flights
  • Southwest does not fly here at all
  • International terminal has lots of excellent lounges and food
  • Customs can take a long time (but that is true at all the airports)
  • A good choice if your final destination is Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, or neighborhoods near those

LGA Airport

  • Also located in Queens, to the north of JFK
  • Currently undergoing a multi-billion dollar renovation (expected completion: 2026)
  • Hub for American and Delta
  • Smaller than J.F.K. with shorter runways
  • No public transportation options other than a bus
  • The best choice if you need a shuttle flight to Boston, Chicago, or D.C.
  • Southwest terminal in the fancy section of Terminal B
  • Limited lounge and food options
  • Choose this airport if your final destination is Long Island City, Astoria, Williamsburg, Manhattan’s East Side, Queens, North Brooklyn

EWR – Newark International Airport

  • You can take direct buses to/from Grand Central, Bryant Park, Port Authority
  • United Airlines Hub
  • Newark is smaller than JFK and it’s quicker to get between the terminals – important for connecting flights
  • The ride from airport into the city is less than scenic, running through industrial cityscapes and rusty warehouses
  • Best parking options
  • Fairly easy to access from west side of Manhattan

Now that you’re semi-familiar with each airport, let’s talk about options for getting into the city once you land.

GO Airport Shuttle is an international company with locally owned GO shuttle services. This is a great way to get from all NYC airports to just about anywhere you want to go. Make your reservations online at https://goairportshuttle.com or the NYC affiliate https://www.goairlinkshuttle.com/. You have the option of sharing a ride with others or hiring a private car. There are agents and service phones at every airport terminal for convenience. See the instructions for finding your car and driver before you actually book on the website, and the instructions will also be printed on your confirmation.

Other options by airport include:


JFK Airport

  • You can take the subway station from here if it doesn’t seem like too ominous a proposition to join the throngs of people with all your luggage. If you’re a light traveler this could be the way to go. Check out the subway map here http://web.mta.info/maps/submap.html to see how far it would be to your destination.
  • AirTrain is another option from JFK. It’s a light rail at a very affordable price that will get you to Manhattan in about an hour but it does require a transfer to a subway or regular bus to get right into town. This “elevated people mover system” is 8 miles long and links the airport with MTA buses and subways. You do have to carry your own luggage. Follow the AirTrain signs from the luggage claim section and plan to use a pay-per-ride Metrocard.
  • NYC Express Bus is yet another way to get there. Buy tickets online and show it to agents at the Ground Transportation Welcome Center. Plan on about $35 round trip and 1.5 hours to get where you’re going.
  • Taxi/Uber/Lyft are additional options, and one of the most expensive. Tolls, surcharges, taxes and fees may be added to your fare but you’ll be paying for convenience and speed. Keep in mind that “speed” in NYC is relative and wholly dependent on traffic.



LGA LaGuardia Airport

  • If you have loads of luggage or lots of people consider hiring a Car Service. This is very convenient but you will have a to pay a little more for it. Your driver will be waiting for you at baggage claim and whisk your luggage to the car.
  • Taxis will get you anywhere, as will ride apps such as Uber or Lyft. The fare depends on your final destination, the traffic as well as tolls, fees, surcharges, etc.
  • Remember that there is no easy public transportation from LaGuardia, but if you can handle stairs with your luggage, have lots of time, and love to walk, it’s pretty cheap to take the Q70 Limited Bus (LTD) to the subway station at Jackson-Heights/Roosevelt Ave., and take the subway from there.
  • GO Airport Shuttle is convenient and easy.

EWR Newark International Airport

  • Cab fair will be expensive due to distance.
  • GO Airlink is particularly attractive from this airport so you won’t have the hassle of figuring out the bus or the train for the longer distance. Transportation is available 24/7 and is a cost and environmentally friendly way to travel.
  • Express Bus travels to 3 different locations in Manhattan: Grand Central, Bryant Park, and Port Authority. Available from all terminals but you would need to walk, take a taxi or use the subway to get the rest of the way to your destination.
  • Stay off the roads entirely by using AirTrain combined with New Jersey transit trains. Buy a ticket at the orange and blue NJ Transit ticket machines at the entrance to AirTrain. Be sure to buy for New York Penn Station NOT Newark Penn Station. Take the train going to the Newark Liberty International Airport AirTrain station. That part of the ride is no more than 10 minutes, at which point you get off and connect with the New Jersey Transit Train going to New York Penn Station. LOOK FOR SIGNS and be sure to get on the right train bound for New York Penn Station, not Newark Penn Station.

Whatever options you choose, keep in mind that there is no getting around the fact that the city is big, beautiful and busy. Try to relax and make the journey part of the fun. You’ll get there…and find that it is all worth any waiting!