When looking at flights to New York City, you will likely have seen flights arriving at two of the three NYC airports, JFK Airport, Newark Airport, and LaGuardia Airport.
The right airport for you will depend on where you are flying from and on what airline, where your accommodations are in the city, and your budget.
This post aims to help you decide which one is the best airport to fly into NYC.
Overview of New York Airports
There are three major airports in the NYC area that we cover in this post in detail (all international airports):
- John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK)
- LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
- Newark Liberty Airport (EWR)
There are also 2 other airports that are less important for tourists to NYC.
Teterboro Airport - This airport in New Jersey services mostly small personal use planes and private jets.
New York Stewart International Aiport (SWF) - Arlines such as Aligient, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Airlines fly here from Florida airports. However, it's a roughly 90 min to 2-hour ride to Midtown Manhattan from the airport.
As you can see from this map of the airports, Newark is in New Jersey but is so close to New York City that it is included as an airport when you search for flights to NYC.
JFK and Newark are very large airports that serve both domestic and international airlines.
In 2019, nearly 100 million passengers passed through these airports combined.
LaGuardia is a smaller airport and the closest to Manhattan.
It serves mostly domestic flights but does have a few international flights, mostly to/from Canada and the Caribbean.
All three are accessible by public transportation and private transport as well.
TIP: Before your arrival, you may want to look at our post on getting around New York City. It includes information on using the subway, bus, taxis, Uber or Lyft.
John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK)
JFK is located in the borough of Queens and is about 15 miles (23 km) from Manhattan.
It's a hub for many airlines and receives the bulk of international flights arriving in NYC. If you are flying British Airways, Lufthansa, or Delta, you will likely be flying into JFK.
While international fares may be higher than if you flew into Newark Airport, JFK has some nice perks.
For example, public transportation to and from JFK is very easy to use and inexpensive.
If you take JFK's AirTrain and connect with a subway, you will spend just $11.15 payable with an MTA MetroCard, to get from the airport to your destination. (There is a $1 fee for a new MetroCard).
Using the AirTran, you'll be able to catch the E, J, and Z subway lines at Jamaica Station. For the A train, take the AirTrain to Howard Beach station.
Two things to consider if opting for public transportation.
While the signage is easy to follow, you may have to walk as much as 15 minutes from your gate to get to the AirTrain. JFK is a big airport!
Also, if you arrive in the middle of the night, due to delays, you may not feel as comfortable taking the subway as you would if you arrived at a busy hour.
If you opt to take a taxi from JFK to any location in Manhattan you will pay a flat rate of $70, plus additional charges, like a $5 surcharge for peak hours (4 pm-8 pm).
A taxi to destinations outside of Manhattan depends on where you are going. JFK is close to some neighborhoods in the southern parts of Brooklyn (anywhere lower than Williamsburg) and Queens.
In terms of other aspects of JFK, it is in fairly good condition and has the infrastructure to handle a large capacity of travelers.
Another nice aspect of JFK is that it has comfortable lounges, upscale shops, and excellent food options.
JFK is due to undergo a $10 billion renovation starting in 2022 with an estimated completion date of 2030.
While the result will be fabulous, it is possible that this could have an impact on the ease of your airport transfer.
Read our in-depth post How to Get from JFK Airport to Manhattan.
LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
LaGuardia, like JFK, is located in the borough of Queens and is 8 miles (13 km) from Midtown Manhattan.
After decades of use without any major repairs, LaGuardia has just undergone six years of much-needed renovations to Terminal B.
LaGuardia is now much easier to navigate and is also quite attractive! It is becoming the airport of choice for many domestic flyers.
Delta’s new $4 billion worth of renovations to Terminal C, completed in 2022, is destined to make LaGuardia the choice of airport for Delta flyers.
The big perk of flying into LaGuardia is the cost of public transportation from the airport to your destination in NYC: just $2.90!
Taking a combination of bus and subway, you can reach Midtown Manhattan in between 50 to 90 minutes.
But saving money comes with a cost. Travel time can be drastically extended depending on traffic. The bus from the airport can be crowded, leaving little room for your luggage.
Also, be prepared to carry your luggage up and down stairs since not all subway stations have elevators or escalators.
If you are not on a super-tight budget, you may want to take a taxi as it will be faster than public transportation and less of a hassle.
Taxis from LaGuardia depend on your destination but are usually $30-$40, not including a tip and bridge/tunnel tolls.
Your travel time will vary depending on your destination, but generally into Midtown Manhattan, it will take between 20-30 minutes.
Note that travel time can vary greatly based on traffic conditions. During rush hours (8 am-9 am and 3 pm-7 pm), you may find yourself sitting in your taxi at a total standstill.
TIP: If you want the best views of the NYC skyline when landing, pick LaGuardia. It might be the most thrilling landing you have ever experienced!
Read about getting from LaGuardia Airport to Manhattan.
Newark Airport (EWR)
Newark Airport is located in New Jersey, 17 miles from Manhattan. Airfares into Newark are sometimes less expensive than into the other two airports, making it an enticing airport to fly into.
But the savings may not end up being worth it depending on which transportation option you choose.
If you take public transportation you will pay about $15 to travel to Penn Station.
From there you will then have to pay $2.90 for your subway ride unless your hotel is within walking distance.
The travel time is relatively short about 30 minutes. But you will change trains three times.
First, you will take Newark’s AirTrain to Newark Penn Station, then switch to a New Jersey Transit train going to New York Penn Station, where you can transfer to the subway.
If you have lots of luggage, Newark is not for you!
Should you opt for a taxi, expect to pay between $60 to $80 plus tolls. There go those savings in airfare out the window!
Unless you are saving money by flying into Newark, you may be better off with JFK or LaGuardia, given the cost of ground transportation.
Read our in-depth post, How to Get from Newark Airport to Manhattan.
Tips For Planning Your Trip To NYC
Get a head start on your trip with these informative posts filled with tips, explanations, and other tidbits to make your planning easier!
If you haven't decided on dates, check out our Best Times to Visit New York City post.
Where to Stay in NYC lists dozens of hotels including the top recommendations from travelers.
Our NYC Travel Guide is a comprehensive post that includes such things as:
Lastly, our post on New York City Tourist Discount Passes explains how you can save money with one of these passes, as well as the pros and cons of each.