My wife and I recently enjoyed a new travel experience: using the New York City subway to ride to JFK airport! It was relatively easy and much more affordable than a cab or ridesharing. So here’s what it was like and what you can expect if you take the subway to JFK!
“There’s No Subway to JFK!”
Yes, I know. I’m using the term colloquially.
For people scratching their heads, you’ll take a subway to one of two stations:
- Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue station
- Howard Beach
From there, you’ll catch the above-ground AirTrain train to JFK.
Why We Chose the Subway
There were a couple of reasons we opted to ride the subway to JFK.
First, we always wanted to try it. We love public transportation and used trains for transportation to/from other airports. Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), San Francisco (SFO), London Heathrow (LHR), and Portland (PDX) are some that immediately come to mind.
We also use New York City’s fantastic subway system whenever we’re in the area.
Secondly, the ridesharing costs were ridiculously high. A ride from our hotel (the W Times Square) to JFK easily would’ve run north of $100.
Yeah. No, thank you. So we decided this was the perfect opportunity to try taking the subway to JFK!
Finding Our Route
Google Maps was a tremendous help for plotting our subway trip to JFK.
If you travel with more oversized luggage, you might want to use an NYC subway station that’s ADA compliant so you can use elevators as much as possible. Here’s a page that lists those stations.
You’ll need to eventually end up at Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue station in Jamaica. From there, you’ll connect to the JFK AirTrain (which is above ground). Both lines are separate purchases, which we’ll discuss in a minute.
Getting to and Riding the Train to JFK
We decided to sneak in a few extra steps (we had to walk off the pizza and bagels!). So, we walked a few blocks to the 42 St-Port Authority Bus Terminal to catch an E line subway.
New York City’s Metro system now offers a tap-to-pay option for subway fare. You can use a mobile device’s wallet (cell phone, watch, etc.) or a contactless credit or debit card.
We opted for the latter. It seemed more straightforward and less hassle. The ride to Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, cost $2.75.
We had some problems getting our luggage through the turnstile. Ultimately, we went through the gate first and left our luggage immediately behind. Then we simply rolled it under the turnstile. (New Yorkers: any tips for this? Please tell us in the Comments section below!)
The ride to Sutphin was about 45 minutes. But if you take the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Penn Station, your ride time can be significantly shorter. We saw routes that had only two stops on the way; our E line train stopped at about 25 stations.
Nonetheless, the ride time allowed my wife to take a catnap. I did some reading on my phone. Before we knew it, we were in Jamaica! (Jamaica, New York, remember 🙂 )
Don’t worry about getting lost. Simply follow the yellow signs for “AirTrain JFK.” And if your ride is anything like ours, several other people are also going to the airport. So consider following them.
You’ll need to use an MTA card to pay for the AirTrain. Don’t worry if you have one: you can buy an MTA card ($1 charge) while purchasing the $7.75 fare to use the AirTrain.
You can do this either at the AirTrain station or any other New York City subway station.
Then board the train and hop off at your airline’s terminal.
All told, the time from boarding the E train in Midtown Manhattan to stepping on the T4 escalators at JFK took about one hour and 20 minutes. We spent $10 each (or $20 total) to take the subway to JFK.
I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve because it earns 3X on travel purchases — such as the NYC Metro and AirTrain.
Would I Take the Subway to (or From) JFK Again?
Riding the train to JFK certainly wasn’t as convenient or fast as taking a rideshare from our hotel to the airport. But it was only about 20-ish minutes longer. And we saved well over $100.
I absolutely would take the subway to/from JFK. Call me crazy but I actually look forward to doing it again.
It might not be the best idea if you travel with a bunch of luggage — simply because it could be a pain in the butt wheeling it all around.
Otherwise, I recommend taking the train to/from JFK as a cost-effective way between JFK and your NYC destination.
If you have any tips for taking a train to JFK, please share them in the below comments section!
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