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I am flying home (Minneapolis) from London after Christmas, and I realized too late that my ticket has me flying into JFK then out of Newark. I land 2:50pm on Sunday (Jan 3rd), then my flight out of Newark leaves at 7:01pm. Is that enough time? If so, what is the quickest way? I won't have a ton of stuff, so I'm not averse to public transport. The best options seem to be:

  1. Airtrain from JFK to Jamaica, LIRR from Jamaica to Penn Station, then the NJ transit train from Penn Station to Newark. I don't know how long this will take.

  2. The ETS shuttle. I put in my flight info and they recommend a 4:30 shuttle which would get me to Newark around 6, for $31.

Can anyone tell me how long I should expect to take to get through customs in JFK and I like the first one slightly more, since there is more flexibility (I think), but not if it takes significantly longer.

Any other advice would be appreciated - maybe this is an unrealistic transfer, and I'd be better off looking for a refund.

EDIT: Thank you everyone. I called the airline and got a refund, they barely put up a fight so I think they realized they shouldn't have sold me the ticket. Anyway, you guys were super helpful, thanks again.

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    Are you a U.S. citizen? That will affect how quickly you make it through customs and immigration at JFK. – choster Nov 4 '15 at 17:13
  • Did you mean "averse"? – phoog Nov 4 '15 at 18:07
  • @choster that's a good point, but in my experience it matters only for travelers without checked baggage. – phoog Nov 4 '15 at 18:25
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    This shouldn't be a problem without checked bags, but I'm worried for you if you have to check things. Maybe look into a car service the whole way--might be more expensive but worth it. Be sure to let the first flight know of your situation; they might be able to let you off first or speed you up. – thumbtackthief Nov 4 '15 at 19:14
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    Just as a note, the E train also stops at Jamaica (or rather "Sutphin Blvd - Archer Av - JFK Airport" station), only takes a few minutes longer than LIRR to reach Penn, and runs a bit more frequently — just in case you need another transfer option. – hobbs Nov 4 '15 at 19:15
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As a New Yorker, the subject line alone made me cringe. That is not a transfer I’d be happy to attempt. And doing it the Sunday after a Friday New Year’s? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Realistically, four hours should be enough time, for either option, but when customs and checked luggage starts cutting into that time, and you have holiday traffic... I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit horrified that they would sell you this.

I’d probably go with the train. AirTrain to Jamaica and NJ Transit from Penn are your only real options for those legs of the trip, but the Jamaica to Penn leg can be LIRR or the E train. I recommend checking mta.info when you land to determine how both of those are doing. Personal experience is that NYCT is more reliable than LIRR, so I would prefer the E train (also, cheaper, but at this point that should be the least of your concerns), but incidents or track work on the E line could easily change my mind.

If you have a lot of luggage, though, the trains are probably going to be crowded and people are not going to appreciate you taking up extra space with that. There will be stairs and Penn is notoriously confusing to navigate and so on and so forth. I’m afraid this is likely to be miserable.

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Google is giving me public transit times ranging from 1h 30min to 1h 55min for a trip from JFK to Newark, arriving at 5:30 pm this Sunday.

If I were you I would look very seriously at the latest allowable arrival time in Newark. If you have checked bags, you will have to be there earlier.

Checked bags will also delay you at JFK. In my experience, no matter how long it takes to get through passport control, I have to wait to get my bags. Baggage handling is therefore the limiting factor for those with checked bags (this may not be true for those in the non-US immigration line.)

Finally, your first flight might be delayed, so you should assume that you may miss the plane no matter how you make your transfer. You should only fly this itinerary If the airline will rebook you for free in the event of a missed connection.

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    1:30 to 1:55 is a best case scenario not taking into account wait times and other problems. – Karlson Nov 5 '15 at 14:09
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The train route is longer and requires multiple transitions but is much more predictable for time.

ETS could be faster and you have no connections to worry about getting to EWR. If you go with ETS, I would recommend an earlier shuttle, there are way too many pinch points for traffic on the route from JFK to EWR. Backups at the bridges and traffic through Brooklyn and Staten Island could easily double the trip time. That could be a risky proposition when you have a specific time you need to get to EWR.

Predicting time in customs is hard. Too many variables, time of day, number of international flights arriving.

YMMV, this is my experience living in central NJ and having sat through way too many traffic jams heading to/returning from Long Island, a trip which covers most of your ETS route from JFK to EWR

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The connection time is obviously very short for a busy day, no matter how you go.

If you want to keep a flight like this, like if it was a very good deal, and you're flexible time-wise, you might try and better understand what will happen if you misconnect. Investigate later connecting flights you could take if you miss the first one. Remember it's a busy travel day so consider how frequent they are. Contact the airline, preferably via email so you have a record of it, to find out their process for switching airports, will they blame you if you don't make it in time and cancel your connecting flight stranding you in Newark? Will they confirm you on the next flight out instead? Will they'll pay for your accommodation overnight if you can't get out later that day and have to wait for the next morning?

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