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John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport (originally known as Idlewild Airport ) is the largest of the New York City area's three airports.  JFK Airport NY handles almost all of the area's international Flights to New York, as well as a good portion of its domestic airline service. JFK is located in Southeast Queens, at JFK Expressway and South Cargo Rd., about 15 miles from Manhattan. The air traveler has a variety of travel options to get to the airport from Midtown Manhattan.  Each mode of travel to and from JFK Airport has its own costs and benefits, and here we'll explore each of them.

Using the Train to JFK - On the rails all the way
Every visitor and New Yorker would be much happier if there was a single train that ran from Central Manhattan to JFK airport, but unfortunately that doesn't exist.  Trains and subways do, however, offer a reliable solution for getting to JFK airport as they are least affected by the extremes of heat and cold that New York experiences each season.  Below are the best options to get the train to JFK airport by using the above ground trains, subways and the airtrain:

Most Reliable Method – LIRR and the Airtrain Combo to JFK Airport
This method is not just the most reliable, but also a relatively cheap and quick way to travel from Penn Station to JFK International Airport during the day or night.  Catch the LIRR train from Penn Station to LIRR's Jamaica hub, which takes 20 minutes.  From there take the JFK Airport Airtrain on the upper level that gets you to the airport terminals in 12-15 minutes.  LIRR trains and the JFK Airport Airtrain run 24 hours a day.  Be sure your LIRR train stops in Jamaica though, because some trains bypass that station.

The cost of using the LIRR/Airtrain combo to get to JFK International Airport depends on when you travel.  The JFK Airport Airtrain always costs $5, payable with a pay-per-ride Metrocard (Unlimited-use Metrocard's won't work on Airtrain).  The LIRR fare varies with travel time: during the afternoon rush, the LIRR fare to Jamaica is $7, making your total cost $12.  During other weekday hours, the LIRR fare is $5, for a total fare of $10.  On weekends, you can ride the LIRR to Jamaica for a special City Ticket fare of just $3 – making the total cost of your trip to JFK Airport only $8.
LIRR trains run to Jamaica every 15 minutes during the day, and every half hour at night, except between 2 and 5 AM, when the trains run hourly.  Travel time is uniformly 35-45 minutes, and transfers between the LIRR and the JFK Airport Airtrain are easy to make.  If you consult for nighttime LIRR schedules, your trip should be painless, no matter when you travel.  Announcements at Penn Station, on the LIRR trains, and the JFK Airport Airtrain are always clear and concise.

Cheapest Method – Subway and the Airtrain Combo to JFK Airport via Sutphin Blvd.
A Cheaper solution for catching the train from Penn Station to JFK is the subway/JFK Airport Airtrain method.  From Penn Station in NYC, the E train will take you to the LIRR/JFK Airport Airtrain (Sutphin Blvd.) station in about 45 minutes, and then it's a 12-15 minute ride to the airline terminals.  The cost is always $7, and the E train runs 24 hours a day.  E trains run every 8-10 minutes during the day, and every 20 minutes after midnight.

Alternative Cheapest Method – Subway and the Airtrain Combo to JFK Airport via Howard Beach
Another route to JFK Airport using the subway/Airtrain combo is to take an "A" train from various stops in Midtown Manhattan (Not just Penn Station) to Howard Beach – the ride is mostly subway with a little Airtrain thrown in for the last leg.  The JFK Airport Airtrain station is on the upper level at Howard Beach.  Travel time to Howard Beach from Penn Station is 60 minutes, and you must take an "A" train going to Far Rockaway -(Not Lefferts Blvd). - other "A" trains do not stop at the Howard Beach stop. Far Rockaway-bound A trains run about every 15 minutes during the day, and every 30 minutes after midnight.  Once at Howard Beach, the Airtrain ride to the terminals takes about 12 minutes.  The JFK Airport Airtrain runs every 4-8 minutes during the day, and every 12 minutes at night. 

The Completely Free Method - Motorcycles Only
Motorcycle riders are allowed to park in a special parking area next to the long-term parking in Lefferts Boulevard, and then they can use the Airtrain for free to get to all the terminals.

The Airtrain at JFK Airtrain Map
The Airtrain at JFK is free from all stations except Jamaica Station and Howard Beach Station.
There is no cost to use the Airtrain between the following stations:
Terminals 1-8
Federal Circle (Rental cars, airport hotel, cargo area and shuttles)
Lefferts Boulevard (Long term parking, employee parking, Kiss and Fly and the NYC Bus number B15)

Driving to JFK Airport
If you're driving your own car from Midtown to JFK Airport, it's fairly straightforward: you'll head for the Queens-Midtown tunnel, go eastbound on the Long Island Expressway, merge onto the Grand Central Parkway going east, and shortly thereafter merge onto the Van Wyck Expressway going south to JFK Airport.  The Van Wyck Expressway ends at JFK Airport.  There are signs directing you to Long-Term Parking.  At JFK Airport parking areas, there are Airtrain stations.  It’s a free ride from Long-Term Parking to the terminals on the Airtrain.  The JFK Airport Airtrain takes about 11 minutes to get to the terminals from Long-Term Parking.  Should it not be running (unlikely), a shuttle bus to the terminals will be provided.

Be aware, however, that if you're driving to JFK International Airport during the day, you will encounter bottleneck traffic in the Midtown Tunnel, on the Long Island Expressway around Woodhaven Blvd., again on the Grand Central Parkway at the Kew Gardens Interchange, and sometimes the Van Wyck Expressway can be backed up all the way from Kew Gardens to JFK Airport.  These delays can add 20-30 minutes to your trip, which, without the delays, will take about 45 minutes.

A free JFK Airport Airtrain shuttle connects all the terminals, and the JFK Airport Parking areas. 

Helicopter or Limo to JFK Airport – Most Expensive Methods
If you have deep pockets, and the idea of flying over all that dreadful traffic appeals to you, there is helicopter service to JFK Airport NY.  US Helicopter flies to JFK from three locations in Manhattan:  E. 34th Street, W. 30th Street, and the Wall Street Heliport.  Flying time to JFK Airport is 12 minutes, but you'll go through security checks before boarding, so allow some additional time for that.  The helicopter flies to JFK International Airport only on weekdays, during the day.  The fare is $159, making this the most expensive method. There are luggage restrictions of one checked bag, and one carry-on per passenger. Weather can determine travel time to JFK Airport, or if the helicopter will fly at all.

If you want to be pampered a bit, a private limo might be the way for you to go to JFK Airport.  Limos feature door-to-door, 24-hour service, on demand.  One of the least expensive of these is Dial 7 Limo, which charges $46 plus tolls and tip.   However, like all the other road-based methods, limos to JFK Airport can be delayed by traffic and weather.  Travel time on a good day is about 70 minutes.

Limousines are the most luxurious way to travel to JFK Airport NY.  They're punctual, private, and comfortable.  Some limo services offer complimentary drinks, and the personalized attention is gratifying.  The plush prestige of a limo makes this method the choice of those who have extra money to spend.  Limo fares do vary greatly from one company to the next, so do a little comparison-shopping first.

Taxi, Van, or Express Bus to JFK Airport
Another method of going to JFK International Airport is the airport express bus.  NY Airport Service operates express buses from both the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Terminal to JFK Airport.  These buses offer comfortable seats, and the fare is $15.  The buses to JFK Airport run every 15-30 minutes, beginning at 6:15 AM and ending at 10:10 PM.  Travel time is subject to virtually the same bottleneck delays you would experience in your own car.  On a good day, you can be at JFK Airport in about 1 hour 10 minutes.  Rush hours and weather, of course, will add time to this trip.

The ubiquitous yellow cab is another comfortable way to reach Kennedy Airport.  There is a $45 flat rate to anywhere in Manhattan (plus the Midtown Tunnel toll of $4.50 and a gratuity). (The flat rate does not apply the other way, from Midtown to JFK) The taxi will get you out to JFK Airport in a little over an hour, if the above delays do not occur.  Yellow cabs are usually plentiful in Midtown, but can become scarce during rush hours or in bad weather.  The yellow cabs do operate 24 hours a day to JFK International Airport.

"Shared-ride" van services also make the trip to JFK Airport.  These are on-demand, door-to-door services that cost less than a taxi or limo, but more than a bus or train.  Super Shuttle gets $19 for a ride to JFK Airport.  Keep in mind that "shared-ride" means the van may make a few stops to pick up other passengers before heading out to JFK Airport, so you might want to allow time for that.  My Super Shuttle van to JFK Airport stopped at a hotel after picking me up, so my trip took 84 minutes.  Absent weather and traffic problems, the van can make JFK Airport in 80-90 minutes.

Obviously a taxi, van or limo to JFK airport also makes a lot of sense if you have a lot of luggage.

Conclusion – Our Top Recommendations on How To Get to JFK Airport

For Speed and Price, the LIRR/Airtrain combo is the clearly the best travel solution.  Because its the train all the way to JFK Airport, traffic and weather aren't such a concern The MTA and Port Authority have done a lot to make the LIRR to JFK Airport Airtrain transfer virtually painless.  We recommend the LIRR/JFK Airport Airtrain method as superior to other, road-based modes because of its dependability and speed.  Fares as little as $8 to JFK from Midtown, for a 35-45 minute ride, are unbeatable.

For Luxury and Convenience, we recommend a taxi or limo, if it suits your budget.  Door-to-door service and comfort are desirable, especially if you get stuck in traffic on the way to JFK International Airport.

Wishing you a great flight!



Travel Time

Via Jamaica Hub

$12 rush hours, $10 off peak weekdays, $8 weekends

35-45 minutes

Via Sutphin Blvd.


60-65 minutes via E train

Via Howard Beach


70-80 minutes via A train


$46 and up

65-75 minutes


$45 plus tolls, tip

65-75 minutes

Express Bus
From Port Authority or Grand Central


70-85 minutes

Shuttle Van


75-90 minutes

(From various midtown heliports)

$159 and up

12 minutes flying time

JFK Airtrain Map