Parking and Driving Tips at JFK Airport

jfk airport new york city usa
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If you need to pick up or drop off family or friends at JFK Airport, you can do that hassle-free with a little preparation and a mobile phone.

Track Their Flight on Your Cell Phones

Mobile phones, especially smartphones that can access flight arrival or departure information, take the guesswork out of delays. In some cases, your friends or family members can even list your mobile phone to receive text notifications in the event of a delay or other pertinent information. Or you can also go onto the airline's app or website on your phone to track their flight departure and arrival if you have their flight information. 

Wait for Them at the Cell Phone Parking Lot

JFK Airport is one of the few airports in the country with a designated cell phone parking lot. At two free lots adjacent to the airport, you can wait in your car before picking up your passenger friends or family. That way, as soon as your passengers get their luggage from baggage claim and they are about to exit, they can call you to drive up. These lots are only minutes away from the terminals.

The purpose of these lots is to reduce congestion at arrival areas by preventing cars from continuously circling around the airport. Parking or waiting on airport roadways are prohibited at all times. This free lot allows you to wait in a safe place, and you can avoid paying a fee at the airport parking lot. 

It is important to remember that once you're in the airport, unless your car is in a parking lot, you must stay with your vehicle at all times. 

Allow Enough Travel Time

JFK Aiport is one of the busiest airports in the world. Traffic to and from the airport, especially during rush hour, can be heavy. From most points in midtown Manhattan to JFK, give yourself one hour to drive to JFK. In rush hour, add 30 to 60 minutes to that estimate. Rush hour in New York City is roughly from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

One to two hours before you plan to leave for the airport, start checking your GPS to see what current traffic time estimates are looking like as these travel times fluctuate. And, of course, check to see if the flight arrival or departure is on time.

Avoid Stressful Situations 

Bring a co-pilot to help you read the signs when approaching the terminals. Driving combined with all that reading as you search for one of eight terminals at JFK Airport can be a major stressor.

If you arrive at the terminal and your party is not at the curb yet, you may get waved off by the police or airport personnel. If you get a chance to wait there a few minutes, consider yourself lucky.

Drive smart, too. New York drivers may be impatient. Some may be discourteous. Take a deep breath, and keep your cool. The last thing you want is an accident on the way to the airport or road rage to set in moments before you pick up your party.

Consider Parking in a Short-Term Lot

If you can't coordinate with your passengers to pick them up right as they are exiting the terminal, then it might be best to use the short-term parking lot nearest their gate and have a plan to meet them inside the airport. Or if you are an out-of-towner or have to pick up children or someone in a wheelchair, then it would be better to park in the short-term parking lot and meet your party in the terminal. Each terminal at JFK Airport has short-term parking for a nominal fee.

Only ticketed passengers are allowed through the security lines at JFK. You can park and then enter the terminal up to the security checkpoint to see your friends and loved ones off. If the passenger needs additional assistance, you will need to contact the airline in advance.

Pickup at the AirTrain Stations

Some might think that it is a lot easier to pick up or drop off at the AirTrain stations, but in actuality, it is only easier if you are located near one of the stations in Jamaica or Howard Beach. Usually, traffic flows nicely once in the airport. The convenience of picking up or dropping off an individual with all their luggage makes door-to-door service worth it in the end.