JFK Vs Newark – Which New York Airport Is Best?

They’re the first and second busiest airports serving New York City – John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International. Sitting in different states on either side of the Big Apple, the two opposing airports handled over 100 million passenger trips between them in 2018. But which is best?

An aerial shot of New York's JFK International
Three major airports sit around New York City. Photo: Wikimedia commons/Joe Mabel

If you’re flying to New York City, you have three options – JFK, Newark or LaGuardia. Unfortunately, a lack of border control facilities and a 1,500-mile perimeter rule for incoming and outgoing flights at LaGuardia limits your options if you’re a far-flung international traveler.

This leaves you with a choice between the two busiest airports in the New York metropolitan area. Each has its own upsides and downsides, and ultimately the question of which is best may come down to individual preference and circumstance.

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However, there are some key considerations to bear in mind if you haven’t had enough experience of the two to pick a favorite yet. So let’s run through them to decide which is best.

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The location of EWR and JFK in relation to New York City. Photo: Google Maps

John F. Kennedy International

Although it’s not the busiest airport in the United States by a significant margin, JFK International is the busiest when it comes to international passenger journeys. It is also the airport of choice for airlines who are looking to expand their offering to NYC, as Asiana Airlines recently showed.

In the twelve months ending May 2019, JFK handled 34,123,280 international passengers. That’s more than double the number handled by Newark over the same time period, at just 14,286,066.

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The difference between the two when it comes to passenger numbers does have an impact on the services you can expect at each. Because of its higher passenger volumes, JFK is better equipped to deal with incoming international flights.

John F. Kennedy International Airport from above
JFK International is one of the busiest airports in the US. Photo: formulanone via Flickr

Out of the top 20 airlines using JFK International during the 12 months ending May 2019, only four are domestic carriers. By comparison, eight of the top 20 at Newark Liberty International are domestic.

JFK is also the ‘home away from home’ for British Airways, who earlier in the year announced plans for $65 million worth of improvements to their gate and services at the airport.

Newark Liberty International

Newark Liberty International lies to the west of New York City, and is considerably smaller than JFK, with just three terminals to JFK’s six. If your eventual destination is on the west side of Manhattan, a journey from Newark Liberty International will be considerably easier than one from JFK.

That being said, if you’re traveling into the city via car, you’ll have to pay a toll on the bridges into Manhattan. JFK International also has a better connection to the NYC subway system than Newark.

Newark Liberty International Airport from the air
Newark International Airport was renamed Newark Liberty International Airport in commemoration of the victims of the September 11 attacks. Photo: Doc Searls via Flickr

JFK International is a bigger hub for many airlines, apart from United. Despite suggestions United may return to JFK, Newark is their hub. If you’re a United fan this means you’ll get a wider selection of flights at Newark Liberty International.

Unfortunately, Newark ranked rock bottom in the J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey for 2018. Although JFK didn’t fare too much better.

Although JFK International has a wider selection of carriers and marginally better customer satisfaction, when push comes to shove, your final destination in NYC will most likely be what decides which is best between the two.

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Chuck

JFK Terminal 2 (Delta) looks like the perfect back drop for a Mad Men episode of the early 60’s (paging “Don Draper”).

Terminal 7 (BA) is cramped, cluster phobic, and hasn’t been updated since the Concorde left town.

As long as folks keep flying thru, the Port Authority will sit on its hands and do nothing because it controls the airport franchise (JFK, ERW, & LGA) of NYC.

Chris Loh

Yeah – for British Airways passengers to leave London through Heathrow T5 and return out of JFK T7… its quite the contrast. I hate that terminal!

Josh Green

Newark (EWR) lies just to the *West of NYC.

Chris Loh

Thanks for spotting that!

Gretna

You failed to mention JFK has six stand alone passenger terminals. A few terminals are operated and managed by a specific airline like BA, then the major international terminals are jam packed with dozens of foreign airlines. JFK’s Terminal 1 opened in 1994 is operated by Lufthansa, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and Air France. Under the best-case scenarios, these stand alone terminals operate on a very tight schedules between departures and arrivals, with not a single gate to spare. Now add a weather event(s) delaying departing flights from pushing back, incoming flights have no gates to pull into, stranding planes… Read more »

Dave A

This article would be easier to understand with a map showing the airports’ locations.

Chris Loh

You’re absolutely right! We added that in. Thanks!

James

I am from ny and fly out of both airports

Terminal 1 JFK is very nice and modern

British airways terminal should be torn down . It is major cramped and lack modem niceties

Jet blue terminal very nice and modern . Many international flight arrive and depart the

As for Newark , only good thing is it is closer to Manhattan . Easy bus ride or airtrain to nj transit into penn station.

Jeffrey Johnson

It all depends on your destination. If you’re going to Brooklyn/Queens/Long Island, use JFK. If you’re headed to Jersey, Newark is a no-brainer. Manhattan is a wash -sort of.