How To Get From JFK Airport to Manhattan Via AirTrain & Subway

We used to exclusively fly into LaGuardia Airport when we visited Manhattan because there were plenty of flights from Orlando and the price was about the same as flying into the other NYC airports. We could easily take a taxi into Manhattan from LaGuardia so I never gave much thought into other transportation options.

Eventually airfares started to rise and I was able to find cheaper flights into JFK Airport instead of LaGuardia. That meant I had to figure out what was the best way to get to Midtown Manhattan from JFK, which is located in Jamaica, Queens. I knew that, unlike LaGuardia, connection to the NYC Subway was possible from JFK; I just didn’t know how.

I tend to be an obsessive planner (Note from Sharon: No, really? Tell me about it…), so when I needed to figure out how to get to Manhattan from JFK, I looked to my main research tool, Google. Unfortunately besides the answer of “you can take the subway,” there really wasn’t much in terms of detailed directions on how to make the trip. Hopefully this article will fill the gap.

We were flying JetBlue on this trip so my instructions will be from Terminal 5 but you should be able to use the same directions once you get to the AirTrain from any location.

When you get off the plane, you just need to follow signs to “Ground Transportation” (of course, if you checked luggage you’d need to collect your bags first).

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After getting to the baggage claim area, follow the signs to the “AirTrain, Parking & Taxis via Skywalk”

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Keep following these signs to the up escalator that leads to the Skywalk. You’re wanting to get to the AirTrain JFK.

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At this point, you’ll be at the entrance to the Skywalk, which leads to the AirTrain, Parking, Public Buses and Taxis.

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You’ll know you’ve reached it because of the seemingly never ending series of moving walkways. Hopefully they’ll be working when you’re there. Otherwise it’s a LONG walk, especially with lots of heavy luggage. (Note from Sharon: Unfortunately, we speak from experience.)

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At the end of the Skywalk, you’ll see signs for the AirTrain. Keep going onward.

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You’re almost there. Just down an escalator, elevator or stairs to the AirTrain

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The AirTrain Station

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There’s only one line that departs from the station but it branches to different destinations. If you want to take the subway to Manhattan, you’ll need to take the AirTrain to Jamaica Station.

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The other branch heads to Howard Beach station. This is where you can connect to the A Subway line but it’s not helpful to get to Midtown Manhattan. If you get on the wrong train, you’ll have to get off and backtrack to the Federal Circle Station to be able to change to a train headed to Jamaica Station (Note from Sharon: Again, we know this from personal experience. Oops.)

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After getting off the AirTrain, you need to head towards the NYC Subway. The E train will take you to Midtown Manhattan, if that’s your destination. You’ll need to get a ticket to exit the AirTrain. The fare for the AirTrain is $5 and the Subway fare is $2.75. If you’re planning on using the Subway for the rest of your trip, you can get a MetroCard from the nearby vending machines, which you can use for the rest of your trip.

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Once you’ve exited the AirTrain station, you need to get to the Subway. Follow the signs to the Subway E, J & Z lines. You’ll be taking the E train to Manhattan.

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You’ll pass the LIRR train station and get to an elevator to head downstairs. From there, you have to go down one more escalator to get to the subway station.

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At this point you’ll know that you’ve reached the NYC Transit Subway system. The smell will be unmistakable. It’s a mix of musty, hot, steamy machinery along with body odor and just a hint of pee. Well, maybe more than a hint of the urine smell.

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From here, you just need to follow the signs to the E train headed to Manhattan. The last stop on the line is World Trade Center so you may see signs for a train headed in that direction. That’s the one that you want.

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We exited at the 53rd St Station and the ride took about 40 minutes. This was the first stop in Manhattan and is on the East Side of Manhattan, a few blocks from Grand Central Station. The E train eventually goes across town to the Port Authority station on 42nd Street before heading downtown and terminating at the World Trade Center.

For $7.75, it’s a great price to get into Manhattan from JFK Airport. As a comparison, here’s how much a NYC Taxi would cost:

  • To/From JFK and any location in Manhattan:
    • Onscreen rate is ‘Rate #02 – JFK Airport.’
    • This is a flat fare of $52 plus tolls, the 50-cent MTA State Surcharge, the 30-cent Improvement Surcharge, and $4.50 rush hour surcharge (4 PM to 8 PM weekdays, excluding legal holidays).
    • Passenger is responsible for paying all tolls.
    • Please tip your driver for safety and good service.

If you’d rather take an Uber, here’s the fare breakdown:

  • JFK to Times Square, uberPOOL starting at $35 and uberX starting at $55
  • JFK to Penn Station, uberPOOL starting at $35 and uberX starting at $54

Final Thoughts

We’re a huge fan of using public transportation in major cities. When flying into JFK Airport, it’s easy to connect with the NYC Transit system and get a Subway into Manhattan. Unlike taking a Taxi or Uber, there won’t be any chance of getting stuck in traffic when taking the subway. The price is also cheaper than any other way to get to Manhattan from JFK.

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