A guide to New York’s airports: JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty

new york city skyline cityscape with statue of liberty over hudson river. with midtown Manhattan skyscrapers and freight sailing ship in usa america.

Navigating the complex world of New York City airports can seem a daunting task for first-time travelers or infrequent flyers. Today the city’s metropolitan area is serviced by three major airports – John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).  

Each has its own distinct features, advantages and drawbacks. This guide will give you an overview of New York airports individually, helping you plan your journey more efficiently. 

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) 

As the busiest international air passenger gateway into North America, JFK International Airport is located in Queens, about 16 miles southeast of Midtown Manhattan. Handling over 60 million passengers annually, JFK is a hub for numerous airlines and serves as the international gateway for Delta Airlines and American Airlines. JetBlue also has a large presence here. 

The airport’s nine terminals are each designed to handle specific types of flights, whether international or domestic, and its most heavily trafficked routes include London, Paris, and Madrid. 

When it first opened in 1948, John F. Kennedy International Airport was originally known as Idlewild Airport. It was renamed in 1963 in memory of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated that year. JFK has since grown to become one of the most famous and busiest airports globally, recognized for its iconic TWA Flight Center, designed by Eero Saarinen. 


JFK is home to five active terminals which between them have a total of 130 gates. The terminals are labeled from 1 to 8, with the numbers 2, 3, and 6 omitted: Terminal 2 was permanently shut down in 2023, while Terminal 3 was demolished in 2013 and Terminal 6 faced the same fate in 2011.  

Each terminal is used by different airlines and serves various domestic and international routes. 

Terminal 1 – is operated by a consortium of international airlines including Air France, Lufthansa and Japan Airlines among others. It primarily serves international flights. 

Terminal 4 – is the major hub for Delta Airlines’ international flights, in addition to serving a variety of other international airlines. Terminal 4 is operated by the Schiphol Group, which also runs the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Terminal 5 – is the main terminal for JetBlue Airways, serving its domestic and international flights. It is also the location of the former iconic TWA Flight Center, since repurposed as the TWA Hotel. 

Terminal 7 – is operated by British Airways but also serves other airlines such as All Nippon Airways and Icelandair

Terminal 8 – is the main base for American Airlines, catering to both its domestic and international routes. 

Each terminal is filled with a wide variety of amenities such as restaurants, shops and duty-free outlets. JFK also boasts free Wi-Fi, currency exchanges and a pet relief area. 

Eliyahu Yosef Parypa / Shutterstock 


Traveling from JFK to Manhattan is possible via various modes of transport, each with its own convenience factor, time considerations and costs.  

Let’s delve into each: 

Taxi: taking a taxi is one of the most straightforward ways to travel from JFK to Manhattan. The taxi stands are outside every terminal and there’s usually a line of yellow cabs ready and waiting. 

Rideshare services: Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services are also available at JFK. They might be a cheaper option compared to taxis, depending on surge pricing and your destination in Manhattan. Pickup locations are marked with signs in each terminal. Be aware that waiting times can vary and you’ll need a smartphone with the app installed to book a ride. 

Bus: the NYC Express Bus is the official bus operator between JFK and Manhattan. Buses depart every 30 minutes and the journey can take between 60-90 minutes, depending on traffic. Tickets can be purchased online or at the bus departure points at the airport. 

Subway: for the most economical travel, the subway is your best option, though it’s also the most complex. First, you need to take the AirTrain JFK, an automated people mover system within the airport, to reach the subway stations. There are two lines connecting JFK to the subway: the Howard Beach line for the A train, and the Jamaica Station line for the E, J, and Z trains. The subway ride to Manhattan typically takes between 60-75 minutes. 

AirTrain JFK: the AirTrain JFK is a 3-line, 8.1 miles long elevated railway providing a quick and convenient way to travel to and from JFK. It links all passenger terminals with the New York City subway network at Howard Beach and Jamaica Station. The AirTrain operates 24/7, 365 days a year, and is also a great way to travel between terminals within the airport. 

LaGuardia Airport (LGA) 

LaGuardia Airport is the smallest of the three in New York, located in East Elmhurst, Queens, about 8 miles from Manhattan. LGA is mainly used for domestic flights and is a hub for American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. It handles approximately 30 million passengers annually.  

Due to its closer proximity to Manhattan compared to JFK and EWR, it’s a preferred choice for domestic travelers, with the busiest air routes being Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. 

LaGuardia Airport opened in 1939 and was named for Fiorello La Guardia, the Mayor of New York City at the time when it was built. The airport was a significant aviation milestone as it was the first in the U.S. to be built expressly for commercial flights. LGA served as New York’s primary airport until Idlewild / JFK opened in 1948. 


LaGuardia has three active terminals, A, B, and C, and 72 aircraft gates. The airport underwent a major renovation in 2016, and the brand-new Terminal B was completed in 2020.  

Terminal A – also known as the Marine Air Terminal, has a rich history and is the original airport terminal. Today it’s primarily used for JetBlue’s shuttle services to Boston, along with certain regional and charter flights. 

Terminal B – also known as the Central Terminal Building, has recently been revamped and now serves most of the airport’s airlines. This includes Southwest Airlines, Air Canada, American Airlines, and United Airlines, among others. It handles both domestic and international flights. 

Terminal C – this terminal, along with the under-renovation Terminal D, is operated by Delta Air Lines and serves as its hub. As such, Terminal C caters mostly to Delta’s domestic and Canadian flights. 

Each terminal has food courts, shops, free Wi-Fi and charging stations. However, LGA has fewer amenities compared to JFK and EWR due to its more modest size. 

EQRoy / Shutterstock 


From LaGuardia Airport, there are several different options you can choose from to get to Manhattan, including bus, taxi, or rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. 

Bus: the M60 Select Bus Service is a convenient and cost-effective way to get to Manhattan. It runs 24/7 from all terminals at LaGuardia and travels along 125th Street in Manhattan, stopping near several subway lines along the route. Tickets need to be purchased before boarding the bus using MetroCard machines located at the bus stop. 

Taxi: taxis are available from the designated taxi stands located outside each terminal. Unlike JFK, LaGuardia doesn’t have a flat-rate fare to Manhattan, so the cost of your trip will depend on your specific destination and current traffic conditions. 

Rideshare services: Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services are also options. They may offer more competitive prices than taxis, especially during off-peak hours. Each terminal at LaGuardia has designated rideshare pick-up locations. You’ll need a smartphone with the relevant app to book a ride. 

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) 

Though Newark Liberty International Airport is technically located in Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey, it’s still a major hub for New York City, being only 16 miles from midtown Manhattan. EWR is the primary hub for United Airlines and serves as a base for budget carrier Spirit Airlines

Newark Liberty International Airport has the distinction of being the first major airport in the New York metropolitan area. When it first opened on October 1, 1928, it was known simply as Newark Airport. In 2002 it was rededicated as Newark Liberty International Airport, following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, as a tribute to the victims: the World Trade Center site can be seen from the airport. 

Newark is the third-largest hub for United Airlines, and the airport is split into three terminals. Terminal A and B were built in 1973 and handle both domestic and international flights from various airlines, while Terminal C is exclusively for United Airlines, and was completed in 1988. 


EWR consists of 121 gates across terminals, A, B, and C, each split into concourses. These terminals handle a wide array of domestic and international flights. 

Terminal A – consisting of three concourses (A10 to A18, A20 to A28, and A30 to A39), Terminal A primarily serves domestic flights and a few Canadian destinations. It hosts airlines such as Air Canada, American, JetBlue, Southwest, and United Express flights. 

Terminal B – Terminal B handles both international and domestic flights. It is split into three circular concourses (B1 to B3) serving a wide range of airlines, including Delta, British Airways, and several other international carriers. 

Terminal C – Terminal C, operated primarily by United Airlines, is dedicated almost exclusively to United’s domestic and international flights, making EWR a significant hub for the airline. Terminal C is further split into three concourses, C1 to C3, and it has been renovated to provide a wide range of dining and shopping options. 

The terminals are connected by the AirTrain, a free automated people mover system that also links the terminals with parking lots, the rental car center and the Newark Liberty Airport Station, where connections to NJ Transit and Amtrak trains are available. 

Overall it offers a similar range of services to JFK, such as dining options, shops, free Wi-Fi, and lounges. Newark is often less crowded than JFK, though, which can make for a more relaxed travel experience. 

EQRoy / Shutterstock 


To get from EWR to Manhattan, you can choose a taxi, rideshare, bus or AirTrain Newark. 

Taxi: this can be a straightforward way to get to Manhattan, but the cost can vary greatly depending on your exact destination and current traffic conditions. 

Rideshare services: Uber, Lyft and other rideshare services are also available at EWR. They might be a cheaper option compared to taxis, especially during off-peak hours. Rideshare pickup locations are marked with signs outside each terminal. 

Bus: Coach USA operates the Newark Airport Express, which provides direct service to several locations in Manhattan. Buses depart from EWR every 20-30 minutes and the journey can take between 45-60 minutes, depending on traffic. Tickets can be purchased online or at the bus departure points at the airport. 

AirTrain Newark and NJ Transit/Amtrak: for a more economical option, consider taking AirTrain Newark. The ticket costs $8. This service connects EWR with the Newark Liberty International Airport Station, where you can transfer to an NJ Transit or Amtrak train to Penn Station in Manhattan. The total travel time can vary, but expect it to take about 45 minutes to an hour. 

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