Which is the Best Airport in NYC?

Approaching JFK airport over New York City
Verrazano Bridge near JFK airport

Taking a trip to New York City? There are three airports you can fly into. The fares can differ quite a bit. But the airports offer a lot of choices for convenience, depending on where you’ll be staying and if you plan to rent a car.

The three airports are Newark (in nearby New Jersey), LaGuardia and JFK International Airport. They are served by different airlines and different frequencies of fights, but all the direct fights take about the same time to arrive.

My favorite choice if I am going to be in the Wall Street area or downtown Manhattan is Newark. Why? Because you can take public transportation on the PATH (Port Authority) train directly from the airport to Wall Street. If you are going to midtown Manhattan, you can take the New Jersey Transport train directly into Penn Station at 34th Street, where Madison Square Garden is located and an easy walking distance from Times Square. Newark is a hub for United, which has more fights going there than other airlines, but there are many choices. The airport is easy to navigate. I would not recommend this airport if you plan to rent a car … generally a bad idea in New York City because of the difficulty of parking.

JFK International Airport is my favorite if I am going anywhere on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) because there is an Air Trans train that connects the airport to Jamaica Station, a main hub for the LIRR. From Jamaica, you can take a train to Atlantic Terminal in downtown Brooklyn or to Penn Station at 34th Street in Manhattan. From either place, you can catch a subway to anywhere in New York. You can also get the subway in Jamaica to nearly anywhere in New York. The LIRR will be a bit more expensive but it is quicker. One caveat: If you are a senior citizen, the LIRR offers a discount while the subway does not, making the LIRR very competitive with the cost of a subway ride.

LaGuardia Airport is known as the “close-in” airport, equivalent to the reputation of Love Field in Dallas or Midway in Chicago. However, public transportation from LaGuardia is not good. Using a car service direct to your destination will be best, but due to ongoing renovations, all the taxis, Uber-type rides and car services are required to wait a distance from the terminal, making this alternative inconvenient.

Because LaGuardia is a smaller airport, with renovations going on, it tends to be very crowded and jammed with traffic. Leave an extra 15 minutes of time to account for this, both going to and leaving the airport. Given the shorter runways of the airport, fights are more likely to be delayed from this airport than the others.

All New York City airports have snow removal and de-icing equipment and are not closed for weather very often. All have long lines for security check – leave enough time to get through them or spring for “TSA-pre check” before you go. Even TSA-pre check will have lines.

Finally, you can get to and from all the airports by special airport buses that connect to Penn Station and Grand Central Station in Manhattan. If you want to end up near either of these rail terminals, Google search the bus transport options to get the bus schedule. Although a bit costly, the bus option makes this the choice of convenience as buses pick up at the curb of the airport arrivals terminal. Taking this bus from LaGuardia combines the airport’s close-in location with a convenient transportation mode.

Happy travels! New York City is always fun once you arrive at your destination.

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