The Ins and Outs of NYC’s Airports: A Local’s Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR
The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Getting There: Transportation Options to Each Airport
Getting to New York's three major airports—LaGuardia (LGA), John F. Kennedy International (JFK), and Newark Liberty International (EWR)—is half the battle for many travelers. Fortunately, the Big Apple offers plenty of transport options to whisk you to your departure gate stress-free.
LaGuardia is the closest airport to midtown Manhattan, making it the preferred choice for business travelers staying in central parts of the city. The most direct route is via taxi or rideshare, with the roughly 30-minute trip costing $35-45 from Times Square. For a real New York experience, hop on the subway—the M60 bus from Astoria Blvd Station in Queens will get you to LaGuardia in less than an hour for just $2.75.
Getting to JFK is more complex given its distance from Manhattan. Luckily, the affordable NYC Airporter shuttle bus runs to all terminals 24/7 from Grand Central, Port Authority and Park Ave, with a 40-50 minute ride costing $18. The NYC subway is another thrifty option—take the E train to Jamaica Center Station, then transfer to the AirTrain. Note the AirTrain costs an extra $7.75. For those short on time, an Uber/Lyft will get you to JFK in 35-60 minutes for roughly $60.
Of the three airports, Newark requires the longest trip at around 1.5 hours from midtown. Luckily, NJ Transit runs an express train direct to Newark Airport from New York Penn Station for only $13 each way. There's also a coach service from the Port Authority bus terminal. For door-to-door ease, book an Uber/Lyft for approximately $85-100 each way.
Pro tip: Purchase your subway tickets and AirTrain passes ahead of time via apps like Omny or Transit to breeze through the terminals ticket-free. Also check group rates for airport shuttles—some companies offer discounts when booking return trips or traveling with others.
No matter which airport you fly from, allot ample time for travel, TSA queues and checking bags—aim for 2 hours for domestic flights, 3 hours for international. Download your carrier's app so you can swiftly check-in online and receive gate change alerts and delay notifications. Lastly, charge your phones and portable chargers beforehand so you'll never be left in the dark.
What else is in this post?
- The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Getting There: Transportation Options to Each Airport
- The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Security and Check-In: What to Expect at Each Terminal
- The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Lounges and Amenities: Where to Relax Pre-Flight
- The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Dining and Shopping: Best Eats and Retail at LGA, JFK, EWR
- The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Most Popular Routes: Where Flights Typically Depart From
- The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Tips for Managing Delays: How to Handle Cancellations
- The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Hidden Gems: Underrated Spots Worth Checking Out
The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Security and Check-In: What to Expect at Each Terminal
Navigating security and check-in at New York's airports can be daunting, but it helps to know what to expect at each terminal ahead of time. LaGuardia only has four terminals, making for a relatively quick and painless process. All check-in and security happens on the ticketing level of each terminal. T1 primarily serves American and Southwest, while Delta flies exclusively from T2 and T4. United and Air Canada utilize T3. Standard TSA security lines at LGA vary from 5-20 minutes depending on traffic.
JFK has six terminals housing dozens of international and domestic airlines. Allow extra time here—security lines routinely extend 30-45 minutes. Terminal 1 hosts Air France, Korean Air, and Lufthansa, alongside domestic operations for Alaska and JetBlue. Check-in and security for T2 is dominated by Delta, while T4 juggles JetBlue, Delta and international carriers like AeroMexico and Avianca. British Airways, Iberia and American run T7, with United, Cathay Pacific and other members of the Star Alliance occupying T8.
T5 is worth noting since it hosts Hawaiian, JetBlue and various international partners. A $265 million expansion recently added six new gates, new lounges, and an outdoor terrace with aircraft views. For such a large airport, check-in and security at JFK is reasonably consolidated, minimizing terminal transfers.
Newark Liberty's three terminals pose the most logistical challenges. Terminal A primarily hosts budget carriers like Allegiant and Spirit. Terminal B is United's base of operations, alongside smaller partners like Air India and Avianca. Terminal C is the most disjointed, with check-ins scattered between three buildings—C1 for Southwest, C2 for American and JetBlue, and C3 for Delta.
Allow extra connection time between security checkpoints and gates at EWR—the airport spans three miles with occasional 10+ minute walks between ticketing and concourses. Oddly, TSA staffing also appears insufficient given Newark's size, with security queues commonly exceeding 45+ minutes. Newark does get points for efficiency post-security—each terminal utilizes dedicated shuttle trains to swiftly transport travelers to concourses once inside.
The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Lounges and Amenities: Where to Relax Pre-Flight
With hours to kill before your flight, airport lounges are oases offering comfortable seats, free food and drinks, and a welcome respite from noisy concourses. However, lounges are far from equal – some are rarely better than a crowded gate area. For the NYC airports, lounge quality varies tremendously by terminal and airline. Here are the best bets for places to refresh and reboot during your layover.
At LaGuardia, the only lounge options are via Priority Pass membership or if you’re flying certain airlines. The best is the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in T3 for eligible Star Alliance flyers – spacious with great skyline views, hot food, premium liquor, and flight updates. The AA Admirals Club in T1 offers comparable amenities but with inferior food and smaller space. Delta Sky Club members can access lounges in T2 and T4 – the T4 location by gate B5 is nicer with comfier seating and better food spreads. Otherwise, there’s only generic pay-per-visit lounges like The Wingtips Lounge.
JFK boasts far more lounge choices, though some terminals have better offerings than others. The standout is the T4 JFK JetBlue Mint Lounge with its chic décor, custom furniture, and artisanal food menu – exceptional even for first-class passengers. Similarly, the T8 Star Alliance Lounge grants a luxury experience for premium cabin guests with made-to-order dining, premium drinks, and relaxation nooks. For American flyers, the Admirals Club in T8 is modern with varied seating and improved food. Delta Sky Clubs are available throughout JFK in T2, T3 and T4 – T4 near gate B34 is nicest with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the tarmac.
In Newark, United Clubs take top honors, especially the location in C74 with a wide selection of snacks, expansive bar, and luxury showers. The United Polaris Lounge in C93 is even more upscale yet exclusive only to business class passengers on United and Star Alliance partners. American's Admirals Clubs in C2 and C3 are drab in comparison – fine for a quick snack but lacking in ambience. And Delta's Sky Club in B15 is cramped and dated. Outside lounges, the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in A12 and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in B43 both rate well for food and amenities.
For most lounges, paid memberships or flying in premium cabins grant access. But several lounges can also be accessed via Priority Pass or LoungeBuddy day passes – prices range $25-50 per person. Upfront costs seem high but are worthwhile if you plan on eating or drinking. Complimentary snacks, high-end alcohol, and made-to-order meals add up fast. Add in comfortable seating, Wi-Fi, and a relaxed vibe, and lounges make waiting for flights almost pleasant. Just be sure to arrive early at busy times to claim seats.
The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Dining and Shopping: Best Eats and Retail at LGA, JFK, EWR
With airline food a diminishing perk even in first class, airport restaurants have become destinations in their own right for many travelers. Luckily, New York's major airports offer an array of dining and shopping options to satisfy foodies, shopaholics, and everyone in between during layovers.
At LaGuardia, those in Terminals C and D should head straight to the Central Food Hall near gates C6-C10 for a condensed version of the city's vibrant food scene. Grab tacos at Daddy-O's or paella at Villa Barone, plus authentic NY pizza at Sauce. For a casual pre-flight meal, sit down for burgers, ribs and beer at the Empire State Beer Company. Travelers in Terminals A and B have access to a Shake Shack and an outpost of the famous Grimaldi's Pizzeria for satisfying quick bites.
Over at JFK's T4, celebrity chef restaurants like Gotham Market offer upscale fast food from the likes of Buddakan and Eataly. JetBlue travelers can dine in or grab meals to go from a huge range of eateries inside T5, from Irish pub Shannon's to Brazilian rodizio-style steakhouse Churrascaria Fogo de Chão. Carnivores flock to Wolfgang's Steakhouse in T1 for its dry-aged porterhouses, while seafood lovers indulge in sustainably sourced fish and fine wines at Deep Blue Sushi in T8.
Newark has stepped up its culinary game lately as well. Spanish chef José Andrés brings his famed Beefsteak concept to C1, serving customizable burgers, salads, and veggie bowls. For diverse quick bites, head to the Food Court at Link in Terminal C - options span ramen, pho, tacos, arepas and more. And celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson's Streetbird offers Nashville hot chicken in Terminal C3. Outside security, grab craft beers and upscale pub grub at Newark's outpost of New York's filtered-water station Cull & Pistol.
Shopping options also abound across NYC's airports for everything from newsstand snacks to luxury fashion. At LGA, Hudson, the iconic NYC travel newsstand, has shops in every terminal for grab-and-go coffees, magazines and more. Terminal C's 15,000 square foot duty free store entices globetrotters with fragrances, designer handbags, jewelry, and fine wines and spirits.
For indulgent shopping sprees, head to JFK's terminals 4 and 8. The high-end DFS duty free shops in T4 stock jewelry from Bulgari and Cartier alongside couture fashion from Chanel, Prada and Hermès. T8 impresses shoppers with its Luxury Collection, showcasing Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo and Emporio Armani. For trendy yet affordable apparel from NYC designers, browse Terminal 4's contemporary boutiques like Animus and Lady B.
The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Most Popular Routes: Where Flights Typically Depart From
Knowing which airlines dominate specific routes from the New York City airports can optimize planning and maximize chances of finding cheap fares. While all major domestic and international carriers have a presence, terminal operations and flight schedules favor certain airlines for key destinations.
For cross-country flights, JetBlue and Delta are top players at JFK and LGA. JetBlue offers numerous daily nonstops to West Coast hubs like Los Angeles and San Francisco from its home base in JFK Terminal 5. Snagging a good fare under $300 roundtrip is common. Delta flies similar routes out of JFK, LGA, and sometimes Newark, albeit with less frequency. Yet you can often find competitive pricing in the low $200s for advance-purchase economy tickets. United does fly to West Coast cities from Newark, but less often and usually at higher prices.
When heading south to Florida, you'll get the most options flying from LGA. Delta and American run regular flights to all major Florida airports from LaGuardia. JetBlue also covers a wide range of destinations including Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa. With so much competition, finding roundtrip deals in the $150-250 range happens frequently. Newark sees less Florida service given United's limited southern routes, while JFK caters more to international flyers.
For European itineraries, JFK unsurprisingly offers the most choices. Perennial low-cost carrier Norwegian Air pioneered affordable fares across the Atlantic with nonstops from JFK to cities like London, Paris, and Amsterdam with regular deals around $400 roundtrip. Major legacy airlines like British Airways, Air France, and Lufthansa fly these routes too but often charge $600 or higher for roundtrips. JFK also supports a massive range of carriers serving European destinations beyond the usual suspects — think LOT Polish Airlines to Warsaw or TAP Air Portugal to Lisbon.
Asian routes also abound from JFK, especially with China Southern, China Eastern, and Cathay Pacific offering regular discounted Economy class fares often dipping below $500 roundtrip. Korean Air and Japan Airlines dominate routes to Tokyo, Seoul, and other Asian gateways. And Middle Eastern mega-carriers like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways funnel travelers through their bustling hubs with frequent deals as low as $600 roundtrip for far-flung destinations.
Business routes to other East Coast cities like Boston, D.C., and Miami see fierce competition, resulting in routine fare sales often around $150 roundtrip between NYC and these destinations. American, Delta, JetBlue and United all jockey for dominance, so nabbing a cheap last-minute fare is fairly reliable with flexible travel dates.
The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Tips for Managing Delays: How to Handle Cancellations
With over 70 million passengers passing through New York City's three major airports each year, flight delays and cancellations are an inevitable nuisance. Savvy travelers can minimize headaches by being proactive and utilizing key resources when disruptions arise.
Paul Bischof, a management consultant based in Manhattan, relies on airline apps for real-time notifications. "As soon as I get an alert my flight is delayed, I pull up the app and check rebooking options on later flights,” says Bischof. “If you act quick, you can sometimes switch to other departures the same day versus being stuck overnight."
Bischof also recommends having backup airports handy. "If a cancellation seems likely, I'll search flights from Newark, JFK, or LaGuardia even if I wasn't originally flying out of those. More options increase your chances of getting rebooked without too much delay."
For international itineraries, flightaware.com is a lifesaver according to avid traveler Leila Banks. “On a trip to Barcelona, Iberia cancelled my return flight last minute due to an aircraft change. Flightaware showed an Air France flight still scheduled, so I rushed to their ticket counter to plead my case and got on board. Checking alternative flights yourself is way faster than waiting for an agent.”
Consumer advocate Clark Howard cautions travelers about accepting vouchers following cancellations. “If the cancellation is the airline’s fault, you have the right to a full refund. Don’t let gate agents strong-arm you into a credit you don’t want.” Howard advises firmly requesting refunds from airline reps and seeking compensation for costs incurred like missed hotel nights or car rentals.
For extreme disruptions like regional storms, stay in the know by following airport social media. “During winter storms, I follow Port Authority on Twitter for updates on mass transit and airport closures,” notes Leon Chu, who frequents NYC airports for business travel. “I also check the @NY_NJairports feed which covers delays across all terminals. With proactive info, I've avoided showing up for flights that never took off.”
Food writer Elaine Lopez relies on airport lounge access to handle long cancellations. “When my JFK flight got scrubbed due to maintenance, I retreated to the Delta Sky Club with snacks, comfy chairs, and wifi. Makes waiting out delays much less painful than being trapped at the gate!”
The Ins and Outs of NYC's Airports: A Local's Guide to LGA, JFK, EWR - Hidden Gems: Underrated Spots Worth Checking Out
Beyond the crowded terminals and gates, New York City's airports conceal hidden gems offering surprising spots to unwind or be entertained during layovers. For those willing to venture beyond their concourse, memorable experiences await.
Frequent LaGuardia flyer Dan Richman extols the virtues of the airport's public observation deck. "Instead of staring at the tarmac from my gate, I'll head up to the Central Terminal Building's roof. The outdoor deck has rocking chairs and unobstructed panoramas of planes taking off - it's a fantastic way to soak in views of the runways." Accessible via elevator in the Central Terminal, the observation deck is quieter than the bustling gates and offers a unique vantage point for aviation enthusiasts.
For art aficionados, LaGuardia's Terminals C and D showcase works by distinguished local artists through an Arts & Culture Program. Rotating exhibits feature large-scale sculptures, photography, mixed media collages and video installations. Travelers can take self-guided tours of the imaginative art scattered throughout dining and retail spaces. Juan Chavez, an art teacher, describes the airport displays as "an unexpected bonus I look forward to discovering on each visit."
At JFK, the expansive TWA Hotel beckons visitors with its retro-chic décor, eateries, infinity pool and museum showcasing Trans World Airlines history. Ahmed Saeed, a pilot, loves grabbing drinks at the hotel's cocktail lounge before his trips: "The Sunken Lounge's midcentury modern vibe will transport you back to the glamorous jet age of the 1960s - it's the perfect place for a relaxing layover."
For families with kids in tow, JFK's Terminal 2 boasts an impressive LEGO-themed play area dubbed the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Young builders can get creative building LEGO racetracks and skyscrapers at the indoor park. Traveler Luis Mendez says, "My kids spend hours at the LEGOLAND playground and never want to leave - it makes long layovers fly by and keeps them entertained."
At Newark, the airport's AirTrain between terminals doubles as a free mini tour of the airport's runways and aircraft. Riders glimpse behind the scenes views of United Airlines' aircraft hangars and maintenance facilities. Geoff Ward, an aviation photographer, raves: "As an airplane buff, I love taking the AirTrain loop to spot unique planes and capture cool shots you'd never get from the concourses."