AirTrain JFK - Using Public Transit Between JFK Airport and Manhattan

The trip to Manhattan from JFK on the Airtrain is easy and affordable.

New Airtrain Begins JFK Airport
••• Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Budget travelers who don't mind carrying their own luggage will find the new AirTrain JFK a welcome addition to New York City's extensive public transit offerings. For $7.75 and in about an hour, visitors can make it between JFK and Manhattan.

You Should Know:

AirTrain JFK requires transferring to a subway or train in order to reach Manhattan -- the AirTrain does not travel directly to Manhattan.

The AirTrain JFK, operated by the Port Authority of NY & NJ, offers service from JFK to subways/trains that connect to Manhattan.

I was curious about how easy it would be to use, since taking the bus from LaGuardia to Manhattan seems easy, until you realize how difficult it is to get a MetroCard at LaGuardia airport, as well as find out which bus to catch. I was hopeful (and not disappointed!) that the AirTrain experience would be easier.

Upon exiting my flight, I followed signs toward ground transportation and the luggage claim. I was pleasantly surprised to see an AirTrain sign, with an arrow pointing me outside. Paying careful attention to the signs, I was lead around a building and up an elevator to the AirTrain entrance. (AirTrain signs were placed fairly close together and made the otherwise complicated navigation easy, but watch for the signs.)

There are three AirTrain routes, and the arriving AirTrain announces its route clearly and loudly, so just listen to make sure you get on the correct train.

The Airline Terminal route (Inner Loop) offers free service between the various terminals.


The Howard Beach(A) and Jamaica Station(D) routes circles the terminals in the opposite direction, both stopping at Station C/Federal Circle. The Jamaica Station route can be used to access the E train and LIRR at Jamaica Station (2nd to last stop on E in Queens). The LIRR (Long Island Railroad) is bit more expensive, but easier for getting to Penn Station in Manhattan, faster, and perhaps a more comfortable ride.

My advice: be sure to allow yourself 90-120 minutes to make the trip to JFK from Manhattan, particularly at rush hour. On a recent trip to JFK taking the subway to the Airtrain, I was starting to get worried since I wasn't able to board the first train that came because it was so full with rush hour travelers. You should also be sure to check MTA's website for any train service issues that might impact your trip. I found that the train I was trying to take wasn't running on the weekend and had a very stressful trip to the airport worried I might miss my flight.

If you're taking the A train to the Airtrain from Manhattan (or Brooklyn), be sure to board one bound for Far Rockaway or Rockaway Park. The A to Ozone Park/Lefferts Blvd does not connect to the Airtrain.

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Pros

  • Affordable ($7.50 verses $45 cab fare)
  • Efficient -- 35 minutes between JFK & Penn Station (using LIRR)

Cons

  • You have to carry your own luggage (and this might require carrying it up stairs)
  • Not always a great value for families and groups
  • You'll have to transfer to the subway or LIRR to get into Manhattan

AirTrain Details

  • At Federal Circle(C), riders can transfer between trains for Howard Beach(A) & Jamaica Station(D).
  • Station C also offers access to hotel shuttles and rental car services.
  • Station B(Lefferts Blvd) on the Howard Beach route allows access to long term and employee parking.
  • Signs are posted for transfer between AirTrain & Subway/LIRR in Howard Beach and Jamaica Station.
  • AirTrain Fare: $5
  • Subway Fare: $2.75 (payable on MetroCard)
  • MetroCard vending machines are available just before the AirTrain exits in Jamaica/Howard Beach.
  • Coming from JFK, pay for AirTrain upon exit. Coming to JFK, pay for AirTrain at entrance.