John F. Kennedy International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and the sixth busiest airport in the U.S., serving over 50 million passengers every year. Out of the three airports that serve the New York City metro area, including LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International is the largest.
Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
The airport, originally named Idlewild, after a golf course which once stood in its place, changed its name in 1963 to honor the slain President John F. Kennedy.
Know Before You Go
Although the names of the terminals start at Terminal 1 and finish at Terminal 8, JFK only has six terminals. Terminals 3 and 6 were demolished many years ago, but the names of the other terminals did not change. All terminals are connected via the complimentary AirTrain, which is located before security and also connects to the New York City subway system. If you're approaching the airport in a car, you will drive in a loop passing through all the terminals. If you don't know which terminal you're flying from, you can look for your airline as you approach the airport. At JFK, airlines move terminals from time to time, so it's always good to check the signs even if you've flown on that airline out of JFK before. Once you've checked into your flight, you will find the terminals easy to navigate with shops and restaurants tucked away into every corner.
Although JFK is known for being busy, it is a very spacious and clean airport from which you can fly to just about anywhere in the world. Most first-time visitors to New York are surprised how far away the airport is from Manhattan and usually there is a lot of traffic on the way there, especially at rush hour. However, it is also possible to get to the airport via subway, which is an easy and safe option as long as you are not carrying a lot of luggage.
Parking lots at JFK are color-coded by terminal with Terminals 1 and 2 sharing the Green Lot. At the green, orange, and red lots, you will be charged $4 for the first 30 minutes of parking and then $4 for every 30 minutes after that with a $35 maximum for 24 hours. At the blue and yellow lots, you will be charged $5 for 30 minutes with a $39 maximum for 24 hours.
If you need to leave your car parked at the airport for more than one day, you can park in Lot 9, which has no color associated with it. The economy lot costs $18 for the first 24 hours and $6 for every eight-hour period after that.
If you are picking someone up from the airport, you can wait for their call in the cell phone lot, which is free to use and will keep you within a five-minute drive of each terminal.
You can check the airport website to see the current fullness of each lot or reserve your parking space in advance.
Like driving anywhere in New York City, how you get to JFK depends on what part of the city you're coming from and what the traffic looks like that day. The difference could be between 30 minutes to two hours, so make sure you consider all your options and check the daily traffic updates.
- Midtown Tunnel: Take the Long Island Expressway east to the Grand Central east to the Van Wyck south. The Van Wyck leads directly to JFK.
- Triborough Bridge: Take the Grand Central east to the Van Wyck south.
- Williamsburg, Manhattan, or Brooklyn Bridges: Go south on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) to the Belt Parkway east. At Exit 19 take the Nassau Expressway (NY-878), which leads directly to the airport.
- Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE): Take the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) south to the Belt Parkway east. At Exit 19 take the Nassau Expressway (NY-878), which leads directly to the airport.
- Jackie Robinson Parkway: Take the Jackie Robinson Parkway (Interboro Parkway) east to the Van Wyck south.
From the East (Long Island)
- Southern State: Go west on the Southern State. The highway's name changes to the Belt Parkway. Follow the signs for JFK at Exit 20.
- LIE or Northern State: Drive west on the LIE or Grand Central/Northern State to the Cross Island Parkway (or the Meadowbrook Parkway) and go south to the Southern State Parkway/Belt Parkway. Then drive west to Exit 20 for JFK Airport.
From the North (the Bronx, Connecticut, and Upstate New York):
- I-87 (NY Thruway): Drive south on the Thruway to the Major Deegan Expressway, and then to the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95). Then go east on the Cross Bronx to I-678 south across the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge to the Van Wyck Expressway south.
- I-95 (New England Thruway): Go south on the New England Thruway (I-95) to the Bruckner Expressway. Take the exit for I-678 south across the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge to the Van Wyck Expressway south (I-678).
- I-84/I-684: Go south on I-684 to I-287 and then west on I-287 to I-87 NY Thruway to the Major Deegan Expressway. Switch to the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95) east, and then follow I-678 south across the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. From the bridge take the Van Wyck Expressway (I-678).
- Alternate Route from the North: Listen to the traffic report on 1010 Wins radio as soon as you approach the Bronx. If there are delays on the Whitestone Bridge, follow signs for the Throgs Neck Bridge. From the bridge, follow the Cross Island Parkway south to the Belt Parkway/Southern State west. Follow to Exit 20 for JFK.
From the West and South (New Jersey):
- I-78: Go east on I-78 to the New Jersey Turnpike south to Exit 13. Cross the Goethals Bridge to Staten Island, and follow Staten Island Expressway (I-278) to the Verrazano Bridge. Exit the bridge to take the Belt Parkway east. At exit 19 take the Nassau Expressway (NY-878), which leads directly to the airport.
- I-80/I-280: Go east on I-80 to I-280 east to the NJ Turnpike south to Exit 13 for the Goethals Bridge. Take the bridge east to Staten Island, and follow Staten Island Expressway (I-278) to the Verrazano Bridge. Exit the bridge to take the Belt Parkway east. At exit 19 take the Nassau Expressway (NY-878).
- Alternate Route from New Jersey: Just after the Verrazano Bridge, exit to Ft. Hamilton Parkway (east) to Linden Boulevard (NY 27). Take Linden Boulevard to the Nassau Expressway directly to the airport. Note: Linden Boulevard is not a highway, but a thoroughfare through the heart of Brooklyn.
Public Transportation and Taxis
There are a number of ways to get between JFK and New York City, where you'll also find it easy to connect to the other boroughs like Brooklyn or Queens or even to New Jersey via one of the city's many train and bus stations.
- Taxi: Taxis from JFK to Manhattan cost a flat fee of $52, which doesn't include tip. Follow the airport signs for the taxi stands, where an attendant will help you hail a cab. Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft are also available at the airport.
- Airport Shuttle: You can take the Go Airlink, NYC Airporter shuttles, or another van company. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time or at the shuttle desk near the ground transportation area of the airport.
- Subway: To connect to the NYC subway system, you can take the AirTrain to the Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue JFK Airport station in Jamaica, Queens, to connect to the E, J, or Z trains, or take the AirTrain to the Howard Beach Station to connect to the A train. If you are taking the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), you can connect to the AirTrain at Jamaica Station. Note that although the AirTrain is free to use to get around the airport terminals, you will have to pay a fare when you enter or exit at your connecting station.
- Bus: There are three bus lines (Q3, Q10, and B15) that connect the airport to Brooklyn and Queens. All buses drop off and pick up passengers from Terminal 5. Bus schedules can be found here.
Where to Eat and Drink
Each terminal has all the fast-food staples you'd expect, but if you're looking for a longer meal you can take your time to enjoy, here are a few of the best options by the terminal.
- Terminal 1: Check out Idlewild Wine Bar or Soho Bites.
- Terminal 2: Order by iPad at Due Amici or grab sushi at Shiso.
- Terminal 4: Danny Meyers' Blue Smoke on the Road is a great mix of NYC sophistication with sports bar fare. Or go for seafood at Uptown Brasserie.
- Terminal 5: Get paella at Piquillo or a juicy steak at 5ive Steak.
- Terminal 7: There are not as many choices here but you can snack and sip at Le Grand Comptoir wine bar.
- Terminal 8: A classic spot right outside of security, Bobby Van's Steakhouse is a JFK staple.
If you don't want to eat in the terminal, head to one of the restaurants at the TWA Hotel like Connie or Paris Cafe, or just grab a classic '60s-inspired cocktail at The Sunken Lounge.
Where to Shop
With the exception of Terminal 2, which is pretty bare-bones, you'll find ample shopping opportunities in all terminals. In addition to the Duty-Free shops and the high-end fashion boutiques, there are also a couple of notable shops at JFK to keep an eye out for like Muji To Go in Terminal 5 or the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store in Terminal 4.
How to Spend Your Layover
If you want to leave the airport and see New York on a layover, you will need at least six hours to work with–and even then that's cutting it close. The airport is far from Manhattan's main attractions and even if you travel outside of rush hour, traffic can be unpredictable, so factor in at least an hour to travel between the airport and the city.
To make the most of a short layover, pick one neighborhood or landmark on your bucket list and stick to a plan. Otherwise, you risk missing your flight.
If you have an overnight layover, you could get a hotel nearer to the sights, but don't forget about the morning rush hour. If your flight leaves early in the morning, consider staying at a hotel near the airport like the Hampton Inn, Days Inn, or maybe even the retro-chic TWA Hotel, which sits in one of the renovated terminals originally designed by the iconic architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C.
There are over 20 lounges at JFK and many of them will require either a premium ticket or lounge membership to enter. However, there are a few lounges where it's possible to buy a day pass:
- Air France Lounge (Terminal 1)
- KAL Business Class Lounge (Terminal 1)
- Swiss Business Class Lounge (Terminal 4)
- Wingtips Lounge (Terminal 4)
- Alaska Lounge (Terminal 7)
- American Airlines Admirals Club (Terminal 8)
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Unlimited Wi-Fi is available from the airport itself, but if the connection is slow, you can try connecting to one of the signals from the restaurants or cafes. Charging stations for your devices are located throughout the airport both before and after security.
Airport Tips and Tidbits
- You'll find typical amenities including nursing suites, pet relief stations, and ATM machines throughout JFK.
- It's a big airport, so if you don't see something you want to eat, keep looking. Sometimes, restaurants are tucked away down hallways you wouldn't think to go down.
- It's not the best airport to make a connection and if you need to switch to another terminal, you'll have to pass through security one more time.
- If you have a first-class ticket, keep an eye out for the first-class marker at the security line. It can save you a lot of time and is usually faster than TSA PreCheck.
- In Terminal 5, you can get some fresh air at the open-air deck.