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we're traveling to New York for a week in February for my birthday. It's my first trip to the US. :-)

We will be flying with Lufthansa but we can't decide to which airport should we land: JFK or Newark? The flight time and the price is the same. We will be staying in Manhattan and landing on a Saturday evening around 20 o'clock.

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One issue not mentioned below is the customs/immigration experience; any commenters know whether JFK vs Newark has shorter/faster lines for incoming international arrivals processing? –  BrendanMcK Nov 15 '11 at 9:44
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As far as lines are concerned, it kinda just depends on how many flights land around the same time as yours. I've had nearly identical experiences at JFK and Newark, though - 10-20 minutes to get through customs/passport control. –  Laura Nov 15 '11 at 14:51
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4 Answers 4

I think JFK is considered to be a nicer airport, but I find it awkward to get to. If I remember correctly, you can take the subway, but you will have to transfer and it might be difficult with luggage. The advantage of Newark is that you can take a NJTransit train right from the airport to Penn Station in NYC (around 33rd and 7th, so pretty well located in Manhattan). The train is more comfortable than the subway if you have luggage.

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They are both really easy to get to. As Artem noted, you can take NJ Transit from Newark to NY Penn Station, which is more comfortable than the subway.

You can actually do an almost identical trip from JFK: you take the AirTrain from your terminal to the Jamaica stop, then you can transfer to any Penn-Station-bound Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train. You wind up in that same central, convenient Manhattan location as the NJ Transit from Newark option.

It may be a better option to fly into JFK, given that it's a weekend. It looks like the LIRR runs more frequently at that time of day on Saturdays (~3 times per hour). The NJ Transit trains seem to be at the :04 and :15 of the hour - so you could wind up waiting ~50 minutes for a train. (You can view the NJ Transit Schedule - select Newark Airport to New York Penn Station - and LIRR schedule - Jamaica to Penn Station - yourself.) Both of these options will cost you about $12-15 dollars per person one-way, and they drop you right into midtown Manhattan with easy connections to about 8 subway lines.

You also have the option of taking 2 buses from Newark to Penn Station, which Google Maps says is about the same amount of time (~40 minutes) as taking the train from JFK. That doesn't, of course, account for traffic you might experience on the bus.

JFK has the additional option of taking a subway into Manhattan. While cheaper ($5 for AirTrain + $2.25 for subway), I find that this option takes much longer, and if it's crowded, dealing with luggage can be a pain.

About.com has a nice summary of all of your different options for JFK-Manhattan travel, as well as EWR-Manhattan travel. (There are shuttle buses available from both airports to various locations in Manhattan, but I cannot speak from experience about them.)

My personal recommendation would be to fly into JFK; taking the AirTrain to LIRR is a nice middle-of-the-road choice that blends convenience, comfort, and affordability. (Taxis are expensive, buses are usually slower and more crowded, subways are hit or miss, and I've never taken the shuttle bus.)

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About using the subway from JFK: if you are super cheap like me you can take the AirTrain to the last free stop (Leffers Blvd - Long Term Parking) and then walk off the parking lot to the subway stop 'Aqueduct - Conduit Av.', this way you just pay $2.50 for the subway. I don't recommend to do this at night or with heavy luggage. –  Peter Hahndorf Dec 25 '11 at 20:48
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Contrary to popular belief, JFK and Newark (EWR) are just about equivalent, for all intents and purposes, as long as you're travelling to Manhattan.

Reasons to prefer Newark:

  • It is slightly more convenient to the West side of Manhattan
  • It is way more convenient if you are travelling to New Jersey or Philadelphia
  • If you are flying United. As a United hub, it has far more United flights and therefore your chances of being re-accommodated if things go wrong are greater.
  • If you need to transfer between airlines, Newark is smaller and it's easier to get between the three terminals.

Reasons to prefer JFK:

  • It is slightly more convenient to the East side of Manhattan
  • It is way more convenient if you are travelling to Brooklyn, Queens, or Long Island
  • If you are flying Delta, JetBlue, or British Airways. JFK has so many flights for these airlines that when something goes wrong, there is a larger chance you can be re-accommodated on a later flight.
  • If you are travelling internationally on long-haul routes, you will usually have more choices of flights from JFK than EWR.
  • If you are travelling internationally in Business or First, some airlines have marginally nicer lounges at JFK than at EWR.
  • If you are in a hurry and need a taxi, it is muxh cheaper to take one from JFK as when taking a taxi from Newark, you must pay a surcharge for crossing state lines.

    Non-issues:

  • Mass transit is about the same between Manhattan and either airport: you take a train and switch to a monorail in both cases, and it takes about 55-75 minutes.

  • Driving is about the same between Manhattan and either airport: you cross one bridge or tunnel, and if it's rush hour, you get stuck in traffic for an extra hour, and in both cases, it takes about 60-120 minutes.
  • The quality of the terminals varies more by airline than by airport. JFK has the city's nicest terminal (JetBlue) and the worst (Delta). Newark is a million times nicer if you're flying United than if you're flying British Airways.
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+1 for the airport vs terminal issue. Seems Lufthansa is JFK T1, which is at least not the dreaded Delta terminal. –  BrendanMcK Nov 15 '11 at 9:45
    
What about time of customs, passport control? –  FooBar Jul 5 at 14:25
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I've traveled through Newark in spring of 2010 and through JFK in spring of 2011 and immigration took a lot less in EWR, but as others say it probably depends on the number of plains landing at the same time as yours more than on anything else.

Also you mention "we" in your question but don't mention how many persons that "we" is. The more people you have the lower is the difference between taking a taxi and going with public transportation.

As far as I remember there's a fixed (regulated) rate for taxi from JFK to Manhattan ($45?), but there's no such regulation for EWR and it could be substantially more expensive.

I've taken a shuttle bus (via http://www.supershuttle.com/) from EWR and it was pretty fast and convenient. Right to the hotel door. And cost $19 per person (as far as I remember). And I've taken a "limo" from the hotel to JFK (via http://www.execucar.com/). I was travelling with family so it was only a little more expensive than shuttle bus x 3.

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