John F. Kennedy International Airport (IATA: JFK) is in the borough of Queens, New York. As one would expect of the main airport of a city like the Big Apple, JFK is one of the busiest airports worldwide and also the busiest airport in the USA in terms of international passenger traffic.
There are six terminals that are not so close to each other, so it is important to note which terminal your flight leaves from.
Landing or taking off from JFK has been much improved in recent years by the addition of the multibillion-dollar Bay Runway, but due to sheer volume, it remains the worst airport in the country in terms of flight delays. If possible, do not connect using JFK, especially when switching terminals. If you must connect via JFK, make sure you have sufficient time: For connections from domestic (US or Canada) flights to other destinations in the US or Canada, allow 2–3 hours; for transfers from domestic to international destinations, allow 3–4 hours; for international to domestic, 3–5 hours; and for international to international, 3–6 hours. International travelers other than those from Canada, Bermuda or Visa-Waiver Program countries are most strongly advised to avoid connecting in JFK to other international flights, as the security and immigration procedures for non-US citizens are monumentally time-consuming and tiresome.
With six terminals, the airlines that serve JFK are spread across the airport. Delta Airlines operates a major international hub out of Terminals 2 and 4, while American Airlines has a hub in Terminal 8. Terminal 5 serves as the base of operations for low-cost carrier JetBlue. Most of the international airlines which serve JFK are split between Terminals 1 and 4, though there are also some operating out of Terminals 5, 7, and 8.
- Terminal 1: International terminal, served by Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air China, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Azerbaijan Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Cayman Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Dynamic Airways, EVA Air, Fly Jamaica Airways, Interjet, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Meridiana, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Philippine Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Saudia, TAME, and Turkish Airlines
- Terminal 2: Delta Air Lines (except international flights, and flights to Seattle/Tacoma, Los Angeles, and San Francisco)
- Terminal 4: JFK's newest international terminal, served by Air Europa, Air India, Arik Air, Asiana Airlines, Avianca, Caribbean Airlines, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Copa Airlines, EgyptAir, El Al, Emirates, Etihad Airways, KLM, Kuwait Airways, Pakistan International Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SkyGreece Airlines, South African Airways, Sun Country Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Transaero, Uzbekistan Airways, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, Volaris, WestJet, and XL Airways France, as well as all Delta international and some domestic flights
- Terminal 5 (TWA Flight Center): JetBlue Airways, Aer Lingus, and Hawaiian Airlines
- Terminal 7: Aerolineas Argentinas, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Iberia, Icelandair, OpenSkies, Qantas, and Ukraine International Airlines
- Terminal 8: American Airlines, Air Berlin, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, LAN Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, and TAM Airlines
With the exception of Terminal 2, all the terminals at JFK have customs and immigration facilities to process the arrival of international flights.
To get to the city you can choose between bus (slow and cheap), Airtrain plus subway or train (less painful, but more expensive), many shuttle services (costing around $25) or a cab ($52). With the waiting time for taxis and traffic, train is often the fastest option.
JFK is located in Queens, some 12 miles southeast of Lower Manhattan. From the Financial District, it is accessible via the Williamsburg Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Long Island Expressway, and finally the Van Wyck Expressway. From Midtown Manhattan, take the Queens Midtown Tunnel onto the Queens Midtown Expressway, which eventually continues onto the Long Island Expressway, from which you can turn off onto the Van Wyck Expressway towards JFK.
To travel between the city and JFK:
- MTA NYC Bus - costing $2.50 (with MetroCard, $2.75 single-ride ticket), these are the cheapest methods of transport, although the slowest to Manhattan. The buses depart from a new ramp near Terminal 5 (signs inside Terminal 5 will point the way). These buses have little room for luggage and go to non-touristy neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn. However, they offer connections to the subway and Long Island Railroad. Note that free transfers between bus and subway are available only with a MetroCard; the single ride ticket does not allow free transfers. Coins (not bills) are needed to board the buses without a MetroCard. MetroCards are sold at Hudson Newsstands in Terminals 1 and 5. If the newsstands are closed and you would like to spend 30 minutes to save $2.50, take the Airtrain to the Howard Beach Station where you can buy a multiple ride Metrocard from the vending machines without leaving the station (free). Then take the Airtrain back one stop to the Lefferts Boulevard station, where you can cross the street for the Q10 and B15 buses. (The signage here is not as good as in Terminal 5.) Bus to subway/LIRR transfers include:
- Q10 [dead link] to:
- Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd (20 minutes): A train
- Jamaica Avenue and Lefferts Blvd: J and Z trains (walk 3 blocks east to 121st Street Station)
- Kew Gardens (30 minutes): Transfer here to the Long Island Railroad (Kew Gardens Station) with service to Penn Station ($6.50 peak, $4.50 off-peak, $3.75 weekend with CityTicket), Brooklyn, and Long Island. While this option is cheaper than taking the AirTrain to Jamaica and connecting there to the LIRR, LIRR service from here is much less frequent than LIRR service from Jamaica.
- Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike (35 minutes): E and F trains. During rush hours, from this stop, you can take express buses X63, X64, X68, QM18, and QM21 to Manhattan. While these routes are slower and more expensive than taking the subway, they do offer a ride on cloth seats without the crowding. Ask where the bus stops are located. One ride on an express bus costs $6.00, but it is $3.50 as step-up fare if you transfer from the Q10 bus and pay for both with a MetroCard.
- Q3 [dead link] to:
- Jamaica-179th Street (45 minutes): F train
- B15 [dead link] to:
- Ashford Street & New Lots Avenue (30 minutes): 3 train.
- Van Sinderen Ave & New Lots Avenue (35 minutes): L train.
- Fulton Street & Kingston-Throop Avenues (60 minutes): C train.
- Flushing Avenue and Broadway: J train all times except weekdays 7AM-1PM towards Manhattan & 1PM-8PM away from Manhattan, M train weekdays
- Q10 [dead link] to:
Note that transfers from the B15 to the subway are in some of Brooklyn's roughest neighborhoods, so this route is not recommended at night or for people unfamiliar with the city.
- JFK AirTrain - a people mover system that runs 24 hours daily, connecting all airline terminals, Lefferts Blvd Station (airport parking) and the Federal Circle Station (Car rental & hotel shuttles) for free and $5 to enter and to leave through the Howard Beach & Jamaica Stations. The AirTrain runs service to Howard Beach Station to connect with the 'A' train to Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, and Jamaica Station to connect with the 'E' Train to Queens and Lower Manhattan, the 'J' and 'Z' trains to Brooklyn Lower Manhattan, and the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station ($15), Brooklyn, or Long Island. Elevators are available at Jamaica and Penn Stations. Total time to Manhattan using the subway is 60 minutes; using the Long Island Railroad is 35 minutes. This is sometimes faster than taking a taxi. If you do go to Jamaica and want to reach downtown, the J/Z run above ground over a scenic route passing over the Williamsburg Bridge albeit through some rough neighborhoods, are marginally faster than the E and can be much less crowded during peak times than the E. During AM rush towards Manhattan and PM rush away from it, the 'J' and 'Z' do skip-stop service, meaning that some stations are served by one of these trains. Keep this in mind if you are waiting at one of those stations. If returning to the airport on the A train, make sure the destination signs read Far Rockaway or Rockaway Park. Trains to Lefferts Blvd. do not connect directly to the airport! If you board the wrong train, transfer at any station at or before Rockaway Blvd, or. If you forget and overshoot, go to the end of the line and either go back to Rockaway Boulevard and transfer for a Rockaway Park- or Far Rockaway-bound A train, or take the Q10 bus directly to the airport. As with the 'J' and 'Z' trains, when taking the A train during the overnight hours, be alert of your surroundings as the train passes through some rough neighborhoods.
- New York City Airporter Bus - provides services to/from Grand Central Terminal and the Port Authority Bus Terminal for $16 one-way, $29 round-trip (return ticket). Buses depart every 20–30 minutes and the trip to Grand Central Terminal can take up to 90 minutes. The stops in the airport from the city are Terminals 7, 8, 1, 2, 4, 5. If, in a rush and the flight is in Terminal 5, it is recommended to walk, as it only takes 5 minutes from Terminal 7. From the airport, the terminal order is 5, 7, 8, 1, 2, 4. It is recommended to take this service on off-peak hours for a quick, pleasant trip. Note that while the schedule online shows stops at Penn Station, the bus does not go there until 8PM; however, there is a free connecting service between Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal using either an NYC Airporter van or a SuperShuttle van.
- SuperShuttle - blue vans provide door-to-door service to Manhattan hotels for about $25.
- Go Airlink Shuttle - Shared van service to or from most of Manhattan for $17–20 one way. 10% discount for online booking.
- Mozio - Online booking for Shared Shuttles, Taxis and both discount car services and limousines.
- Taxi - The most flexible route into the city from JFK is a taxi, although the wait for one can be long when many flights arrive simultaneously. Taxi fare runs a flat $52 (+$.50 MTA tax) to anywhere in Manhattan, not including tolls (up to $5.50) or tips, which total up the bill to anywhere from $65 to $70. Taxis to points other than Manhattan and taxis to the airport from anywhere use the meter (see taxis in Getting Around). During peak periods, you may have to wait up to 30 minutes for a taxi. The arrivals terminals are filled with drivers hawking illegal livery rides - if you want to take one of these, be sure to negotiate the fare in advance and make sure that it is cheaper than the taxi fare noted above. This also saves the wait in the taxi line. In general, though, it is not recommended if you are unfamiliar with the city, as these drivers tend to increase the price at the end of the trip through different excuses.
- Car Service/Limousines - An alternative to taxis, car services are useful for getting to the airport from the outer boroughs where taxis are harder to find, or if you prefer to have transportation reserved in advance. Typically $52+ between JFK and Manhattan, you can compare prices on Mozio.com
The free AirTrain connects the terminals.
Within terminals, if your flight leaves from or arrives at a high-numbered gate, consider using a free motorized shuttle, especially if you are carrying heavy or bulky luggage or would otherwise have trouble walking long distances. Some gates are really quite far from the security check area and the baggage claim area. Drivers do not expect to be tipped for driving you.
- Oasis Lounge, Terminal 4. Open 24 hours. While it's pricey, it's also perhaps the best place to kill time at JFK. There are shower facilities, free Wi-Fi, meals served, a complimentary bar with snacks, and a comfy lounge with TVs. $45 for four hours, $10/hour after that.
- Several airline lounges are scattered throughout JFK: Korean Air has one in Terminal 1; Delta has four, one in Terminal 2 and three in Terminal 3; Emirates, KLM, Swiss, and Virgin Atlantic each operate lounges in Terminal 4; United has one in Terminal 7; and American Airlines has two in Terminal 8, one in Concourse B and the other in Concourse C.
Eat and Drink
All terminals have extensive choices for food post-security. Only Terminal 1, however, has a dedicated food court pre-security, with many well-known chains such as Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and Sbarro's.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the airport provided by Boingo, but at various prices. In Terminal 8, for example, Boingo gives users 30 minutes of free usage at 5 Mbits/second, and upon expiry charges for additional usage as a day pass or a recurring monthly charge. However, if one clears the web browser cookies and cache related to the "Boingo" domain, you can keep signing up for more free 30 minute sessions.
You can buy a pay as you go plan for $4.95 or a Day Pass with unlimited access $7.95. If you're willing to buy a Day Pass and know you'll be staying in JFK more than a few days within the month, you could also buy a month pass for only $9.95. JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi in Terminal 5, although there are no outlets there for you to charge your device.
- Left luggage services are available in the arrivals areas of Terminal 1 and Terminal 4 and cost $4–16 per bag per day, depending on size.
- There are plenty of ATMs, but almost all charge a $2–3 fee per withdrawal.
- Luggage trolleys are available either for a fee of $5 in Terminals 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 or free in Terminals 1 and 4.
- If you need a shower, the Oasis Lounge in Terminal 4 is the only place in JFK with shower facilities open to the general public. If you're lucky enough to be flying Delta or Korean Air, they offer showers in their lounges.
While there aren't any hotels on the grounds of JFK, plenty of chain motels of all service levels are located just past the edge of the airport in the neighborhood of Jamaica, with most running shuttle buses to/from the airport. Hotel shuttles pick up from the Federal Circle station on the Jamaica and Howard Beach AirTrain lines, which is free within the airport.
If you're really short on cash, sleeping in the airport is an option, although not an overly pleasant one. Seating can be limited depending on which terminal you're in, the terminals can get cold (so bring a sweater at the very least) and while the cleaning staff generally won't bother you, their loud machines can wake you up. If you're worried about your bags getting stolen, luggage storage is available for a fee in Terminals 1 and 4, although the one in Terminal 4 is the only one open 24 hours a day, in case you need to access your bags before 7AM.
The only neighborhood that's really nearby is Jamaica.