New York airports: JFK vs. EWR/Newark?
We're traveling to New York for a week in February. We will be flying with Lufthansa, landing on a Saturday evening around 20:00 and staying in Manhattan. The flight times and prices to John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport are the same.
At which airport should we land?
One issue not mentioned below is the customs/immigration experience; any commenters know whether JFK vs Newark has shorter/faster lines for incoming international arrivals processing?
Contrary to popular belief, JFK and Newark (EWR) are just about equivalent, for all intents and purposes, as long as you're traveling to Manhattan.
Reasons to prefer Newark:
- It is slightly more convenient to the West side of Manhattan
- It is way more convenient if you are traveling to New Jersey or Philadelphia
- If you are flying United. As a United hub, it has far more United flights and therefore your chances of being re-accommodated if things go wrong are greater.
- If you need to transfer between airlines, Newark is smaller and it's easier to get between the three terminals.
Reasons to prefer JFK:
- It is slightly more convenient to the East side of Manhattan
- It is way more convenient if you are traveling to Brooklyn, Queens, or Long Island
- If you are flying Delta, JetBlue, or British Airways. JFK has so many flights for these airlines that when something goes wrong, there is a larger chance you can be re-accommodated on a later flight.
- If you are traveling internationally on long-haul routes, you will usually have more choices of flights from JFK than EWR.
- If you are traveling internationally in Business or First, most airlines have nicer lounges at JFK than at EWR.
- Taxis and Ubers are about $20 less
- In most cases (except United), JFK has nicer / newer terminals with more amenities, shops and restaurants while you're waiting for your flight.
- Mass transit is about the same between Manhattan and either airport: you take a train and switch to a monorail in both cases, and it takes about 55-75 minutes.
- Driving is about the same between Manhattan and either airport: you cross one bridge or tunnel, and if it's rush hour, you get stuck in traffic for an extra hour, and in both cases, it takes about 60-120 minutes.
- Customs and immigration are pretty much the same. You might sail through, you might get stuck in a 2 hour line, but it doesn't depend on the airport.
+1 for the airport vs terminal issue. Seems Lufthansa is JFK T1, which is at least not the dreaded Delta terminal.
They are both really easy to get to. As Artem noted, you can take NJ Transit from Newark to NY Penn Station, which is more comfortable than the subway.
You can actually do an almost identical trip from JFK: you take the AirTrain from your terminal to the Jamaica stop, then you can transfer to any Penn-Station-bound Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train. You wind up in that same central, convenient Manhattan location as the NJ Transit from Newark option.
It may be a better option to fly into JFK, given that it's a weekend. It looks like the LIRR runs more frequently at that time of day on Saturdays (~3 times per hour). The NJ Transit trains seem to be at the :04 and :15 of the hour - so you could wind up waiting ~50 minutes for a train. (You can view the NJ Transit Schedule - select Newark Airport to New York Penn Station - and LIRR schedule - Jamaica to Penn Station - yourself.) Both of these options will cost you about $12-15 dollars per person one-way, and they drop you right into midtown Manhattan with easy connections to about 8 subway lines.
You also have the option of taking 2 buses from Newark to Penn Station, which Google Maps says is about the same amount of time (~40 minutes) as taking the train from JFK. That doesn't, of course, account for traffic you might experience on the bus.
JFK has the additional option of taking a subway into Manhattan. While cheaper ($5 for AirTrain + $2.25 for subway), I find that this option takes much longer, and if it's crowded, dealing with luggage can be a pain.
About.com has a nice summary of all of your different options for JFK-Manhattan travel, as well as EWR-Manhattan travel. (There are shuttle buses available from both airports to various locations in Manhattan, but I cannot speak from experience about them.)
My personal recommendation would be to fly into JFK; taking the AirTrain to LIRR is a nice middle-of-the-road choice that blends convenience, comfort, and affordability. (Taxis are expensive, buses are usually slower and more crowded, subways are hit or miss, and I've never taken the shuttle bus.)
About using the subway from JFK: if you are super cheap like me you can take the AirTrain to the last free stop (Leffers Blvd - Long Term Parking) and then walk off the parking lot to the subway stop 'Aqueduct - Conduit Av.', this way you just pay $2.50 for the subway. I don't recommend to do this at night or with heavy luggage.
That weird scheduling of Newark trains is very annoying, 2 or 3 trains an hour but clustered so you often need to wait in excess of 30 mins. There is also bus from EWR to Newark Penn Station. From there you can get the PATH to WTC or 33rd Street. Fine if travelling light, not sure I'd do it with luggage and kids.
@PeterHahndorf you can also take an MTA bus from JFK to a subway station, which ought to be less walking. Unfortunately, though, the MTA buses only stop at one terminal (5, if I remember correctly), so it's a less convenient option if you're coming from the wrong terminal.
Re LIRR: I have observed multiple tourists fail to realize that the LIRR's tickets are entirely distinct from the MetroCard system and have to be purchased separately. Unfortunately, there isn't really any good signage indicating this fact, and to make it worse, the LIRR ticket kiosks look very similar to the MetroCard kiosks 100 feet away. Other than this hiccup, the LIRR is very nice; Jamaica is the hub and Penn is the western terminus, so nearly every train will hit both. That means you get a steady supply of trains at all hours of the day and most hours of the night.
I think JFK is considered to be a nicer airport, but I find it awkward to get to. If I remember correctly, you can take the subway, but you will have to transfer and it might be difficult with luggage. The advantage of Newark is that you can take a NJTransit train right from the airport to Penn Station in NYC (around 33rd and 7th, so pretty well located in Manhattan). The train is more comfortable than the subway if you have luggage.
I've traveled through Newark in spring of 2010 and through JFK in spring of 2011 and immigration took a lot less in EWR, but as others say it probably depends on the number of plains landing at the same time as yours more than on anything else.
Also you mention "we" in your question but don't mention how many persons that "we" is. The more people you have the lower is the difference between taking a taxi and going with public transportation.
As far as I remember there's a fixed (regulated) rate for taxi from JFK to Manhattan (As of 2015 it is $52.80 + tolls), but there's no such regulation for EWR and it could be substantially more expensive.
I've taken a shuttle bus (via http://www.supershuttle.com/) from EWR and it was pretty fast and convenient. Right to the hotel door. And cost $19 per person (as far as I remember). And I've taken a "limo" from the hotel to JFK (via http://www.execucar.com/). I was travelling with family so it was only a little more expensive than shuttle bus x 3.
Almost six years ago it seemed a case of Ni fu ni fah - that there was really very little indeed to prefer one over the other. @Alan Mendelevich mentioned in his experience immigration took a lot less in EWR but qualified that with it probably depends on the number of planes landing at the same time as yours more than on anything else.
However the OP gives the day of the week and the time of day, so we do have statistics in connection with the number of planes landing at the same time. Since 2008 U.S. Customs and Border Protection have gathered and published average wait times (AWT) by airport, terminal, date and hour.
Choosing 20:00 - 21:00 for the first two Saturdays of this December and T1 (JFK) and TB (EWR), it is the latter that has an edge that could "tip the scales" where otherwise finely balanced. JFK takes roughly twice as long, about 22 - 62 minutes as opposed to 12 - 32 minutes (average - maximum, of the average of two dates).