Three NYC Airports: Which to Pick?

If you’ve never been to New York City before, it can be bewildering. With three airports under the “NYC” umbrella, it can be a daunting task to even select the flight. 

No matter which airport you pick, be prepared for delays. New York airspace slows down—and even shuts down—during winter snowstorms and summer thunderstorms. If you have a meeting you absolutely have to make, arrive the night before. 

Still, there are better and worse options:

1) John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) – locals call it “JFK” or “Kennedy” 

The busiest NYC airport and where most long-distance domestic and international flights depart and arrive. Want to fly in from Amman, Seoul, or Budapest non-stop? JFK’s your only option.

Catching a cab from JFK can be a soul-crushing experience. Town car drivers may try to hustle you for a larger fee, but if you want a standard city cab, politely say “no, thank you,” and head to the sanctioned cab stand outside on the curb. Be warned: with JFK being the farthest airport from Manhattan and the amount of traffic on that route, the ride can take much longer than expected.

Consider taking the AirTrain (people mover) instead and connecting to the subway or Long Island Railroad, which goes to both Long Island and Manhattan. 

2) LaGuardia Airport (LGA) – locals call it “LaGuardia”

LaGuardia is the closest airport to Manhattan by distance, but has a “perimeter rule” meaning no transcontinental or intercontinental flights can fly there.

Despite its proximity to the city, traveling from LaGuardia can also mean a stressful cab ride, especially during rush hour or bad weather. And there’s no subway or train station at the airport, so if you need to count on public transit, you’ll have to catch a bus and then connect to the subway.

On the upside, when traffic is light, LaGuardia can be a breeze: airport to downtown in under 20 minutes. 

3) Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) – locals call it ”Newark.” 

This airport is actually in New Jersey, but serves many people going to New York. It has several unique flights, including the longest-in-the-world Singapore-Newark non-stop. Other than that, there’s not much to recommend it; it has the worst customer reviews of any airport in the US, and, remarkably, 40 of the 100 most-delayed flights in the country are either to or from Newark.

Getting from Newark to New York can be a mess. During bad weather or rush hour (notice a trend?), you’re easily looking at more than an hour in a cab. And while there are NJ Transit and Amtrak trains that go from Newark Airport to Manhattan, they only runs a few times an hour.

Protip: If you want to search all three airports at once, use the catch-all “NYC” code on Hipmunk.

Now you tell us: if you’re a regular into New York, which airport do you prefer and why?