Apparently, I have traveled where few Manhattan-based New Yorkers dare to tread: on the AirTrain to JFK from Manhattan.
Just what is this mystery “air train" and how does one use it and why don’t more Manhattan-based New Yorkers use it? I’d like to share what I discovered and why I discovered it.
I needed to get to the nearest location where I could finalize my purchase of the Global Entry card (the card that was created to make somebody a LOT of money, and supposedly will protect us from terrorists even though we already have a similar TSA-Pre-Check program in place to do that). Though you initialize the purchase of the Global Entry card online, you must go to a finalizing place to complete the process. As a Manhattan dweller, this location is only conveniently (I use the italics to denote a sneer and/or air quotes–whichever conveys my frustration best) located at a downtown location (which is currently not accepting any applications BTW) or the JFK airport (about an hour away by car). As I said: very convenient (not).
Since I don’t own a car, JFK is an expensive destination as well. The price of taking a shuttle is around $34 one way (and about 3 hours of my day–one way), and a car service is higher. I did not want to add an additional $70-$100 to go buy a stupid $100 Global Entry card. I am not rich.
After doing much research (I Googled it) for alternatives, I discovered the AirTrain that I could take linking the Subway system to the airport–and it was only an additional $5 each way over the subway ticket. I was intrigued.
First off, what is it? According to our friends at Wikipedia:
AirTrain JFK is a 3-line, 8.1-mile-long (13 km) people mover system and elevated railway in New York City providing a 24/7 service to John F. Kennedy International Airport. It is operated by Bombardier Transportation under contract to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the operator of the airport. The service operates all day, year-round.
Secondly, why don’t people ever talk about it? I don’t know, and I’m still curious as to why no one I know mentions it. I asked friends who travel if they had ever used it. It was a pretty resounding “no” by everyone.
In fact, one of my friends joked, “If you do take the AirTrain and don’t make it back, can I have your orange glass collection?” She was joking that riding the subway outside of Manhattan was not something sane people should do.
I decided to do it.
After further research (I Googled it), I discovered that I could take our local subway down a few stops to Penn Station and then switch to another subway line (the E). I would then take the E train arriving at the LIRR/JFK AirTrain station at Sutphin Blvd. in about 45 minutes. From there I could purchase the AirTrain ticket using cash or my regular Metro card (NOT an unlimited ride ticket) and it's just another 12-15 minute ride to the airline terminals for an additional $5. There are other subway and train connections available, but the E was the best choice for me (This info as well as other similar options are listed here http://www.nysubway.com/airport/jfk.html ).
Cheap? Easy? Relatively quick? Awesome. So that’s what I did.
I think the hardest part was following the signs at Penn Station to find the entrance to the E train. But after that, I just stayed on the train until we got to the Sutphin Blvd. stop, then got off and followed the signs to the AirTrain entrance. This was not hard to find.
After about 10 minutes on the AirTrain, I got off at the terminal listed on the Global Entry info sheet I received after applying, and then asked for directions to the office since I did NOT see any signs directing to this. It was just down the escalators and around the corner to the right.
I arrived in plenty of time (I was way early which they don’t really like), added my name to the list, and waited.
Finally, clutching my completed paperwork, I headed back to Manhattan knowing what I was doing this time.
At approximately $7.75 each way, it’s definitely the cheapest way to get to the JFK airport from Manhattan and I highly recommend it (as long as you travel light, since you will need to haul your bags through the subway station and through the gates)!