Subway-AirTrain, Cab, or SuperShuttle from JFK?

If you fly into or out of New York City internationally, sooner or later you end up going through sucky JFK airport. (It’s also where JetBlue flights arrive.) If you take a cab to or from Manhattan, it’s $45, which is a chunk of change. There are other options though–if you have plenty of time.

I spent the past few days in New York City, attending a European travel conference. While there, I sampled two methods of getting to and from JFK airport to see how they stacked up: a SuperShuttle van and the subway to the AirTrain.

Heading into Manhattan I took the SuperShuttle van, which is $19 plus tip. In theory it’s “door to door service,” but in reality the van stops at every single terminal in the airport then stops at every single stop for the people in the van. So if you’re heading way downtown, as I was, it can take over two hours end to end. (I finally hopped off at 23rd and Broadway and took the subway.)

We should be thankful for the subway to AirTrain option, even though the last little leg to the terminal costs 2.5 times what the long subway ride does. Still, at $7 total, it’s by far the cheapest way to get there. (If you use the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station instead, it’s $12.) I was told it would take an hour to an hour and a half. Fortunately I left plenty of time, as here’s how it really went.

12:35 Enter the subway station at 14th St. and 1st Ave.
12.40 Board the L train to head to Queens
1:03 “Last stop, Wyckoff Station” says the conductor. Crap. Get out to change trains
1:25 Another L train finally arrives
1:32 Arrive Broadway Junction station, transfer to Rockaway A train
1:40 Board Rockaway-bound A train
1:53 Arrive at AirTrain station
2:01 Board Airtrain
2:14 Begin walk around the car-dodging detours of the permanent constuction zone known JFK airport
2:20 Check in at Delta counter
Total travel time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. Your mileage may vary, but this was a pretty straight shot from the east side of Manhattan. Allow longer if you’re uptown and west.

I then sat on the runway for four hours before getting airborne, but that’s another story…

  1. Marie

    That sucks about the L train!! I’m sure that in the grand tradition of NYC Transit, no explanation was offered. Just “This train is terminating now. Get off.”

    Glad you made it with plenty of time but are you going to tell us about why you had to sit on the runway for four hours?

  2. Kelly

    This is very helpful – I’ve always managed to avoid JFK but have wondered what the best options were — thanks for doing the tough leg work! I am sure I’ll have to do this eventually.

  3. AVB

    From the East Village, you’re better off taking the F from Second Ave. and avoiding the L. B’way Junction is a terrible place to change, especially if you have a heavy suitcase; if you switch from the F to the A at Jay St., you only need to walk to the other side of the platform. The AirTrain still takes ages, though.

  4. Kath

    Thanks for posting this, Tim! I’ve never taken the AirTrain and now I probably never will. Though maybe it’s a little less hassle leaving from Brooklyn.

    Sorry about your air travel woes, but it was really great to see you in NYC!

  5. tim

    Thanks for chiming in everyone. I would imagine if you are able to just hop on the A express somewhere, the trip would be shorter–and you could stay in one seat.

    Just the usual NYC weather hassles that left me sitting on the runway. At least I made it out. A dozen Delta flights got cancelled around me in the meantime.

  6. Darrin

    The legacy of urban planner and car-centric extremist Robert Moses still haunts NYC. Our city can’t even get the 2nd Ave subway line built. A one-seat express train from Manhattan to either JFK or Laguardia is pure fantasy.

    The one time I took AirTrash, I started with the A train at West 4th and the trip took me 2 hours, because I took the wrong A train (there are two of them, and it’s my fault for grabbing the wrong one, but the conductor didn’t feel like making any announcements–typical). So don’t feel bad, Tim. You beat a NYC resident by 15 minutes.

  7. tim

    Yeah, I meant one seat for the subway portion. Even Newark’s train from Penn Station requires a change at the terminal itself. That one is quite nice though after you get to Penn Station. (Though more expensive.)

  8. tim

    I’m just returning to this post to look up something and wanted to add that I did this a second time this past November and it took an hour and five minutes. I got onto the A from the get-go, which made a huge difference.

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