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A popular airport for English tourists, as it is the main airport serving New York City, NY. I have used the airport for both a destination ariport and a connecting airport.
As a destination airport: There are so many international flight's entering JFK at similar times that clearing customs and border control is always time consuming, not what you want when you have just gotten off a 7 hour red eye flight! The airport itself is located about a 45 min drive from Southern Manhatten, this is an important fact to remember, as tourists will generally be staying in cheaper hotels to the North, adding more time to the transfer. The only way to get to the airport is directly through the city, as everybody knows city driving is annoying and can be expensive in a taxi, so remember to leave plenty of time when heading back to the airport for take off.
As a connecting airport: With it being such a large airport long connections times can be needed, to transfer especially from an international flight to a domestic flight, where a terminal change is needed also. There are many trans-atlantic flights per day from JFK so if you miss one, one is cancelled or other reasons due to no fault of your own there is a very high possibility that you will not be spending a night in the airport.
After arriving at JFK Airport after a 8 hour flight, I find it to be a bit of a pain really. You seem to have to walk for ages to get through to where the luggage claim area is and then more walking to get to customs. I feel the walking is to prepare you for when you get into the city.
Once you arrive at customs, it is a very long queue of people, all waiting for one of the at most 10 customs officers to check you through. We had to stand in queue for around 30 minutes to get through this bit.
You are then allowed to leave the airport and continue on with your holiday. It's all a bit underwhelming once you get through. A small shop in the exit lounge and a few desks for rental cars and private taxis into the city.
We took a yellow cab, which cost us $50 and took around 45 minutes to get to our hotel.
The return flight is extremly disappointing. You enter and check in, followed by a wander through security. The you go into departures and find around 6 different shops, a few fast food restaurants and that is it. If you arrive very early for your flight, take a book or something or be prepared to be bored.
On November 22, 1963 the 35th president of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was murdered in Dallas, Texas. Afterwards his name become associated with many monuments in the US such as NASA's Cape Kennedy and, of course, the international airport in New York known as JFK. Would that I could tell you that this airport is alive and well, but unfortunately, I have come to mourn JFK Airport, not to praise it.
What a perfect word that is, isn't it? Actually, the basic idea of JFK isn't all that complicated. There are eight major buildings all positioned in a circle. Inside the circle are roads and parking lots. This wouldn't be all that bad if it wasn't for the fact that if you need to get from one terminal to another, or just between a terminal and a parking lot, you'll find that there aren't a whole lot of covered passage ways. In fact, there are only two, one of which only serves Delta passengers between terminals 2 and 3. The other is between terminals 8 and 9 which are both in the same building anyway. Those terminals mostly serve passengers on American Airlines. This means if you come in on British Airways (terminal 7) and are connecting to a Delta flight (terminal 3) you're going to have to get yourself half way around the circle through some outdoors transport. While that's not impossible, with New York's severely cold winters and hellishly hot summers, this is a huge drawback.
Furthermore, I found that the signage in the buildings can be pretty vague, if there is any at all. Mostly you'll feel when you arrive at JFK that you're trapped into going along long corridors and hallways that lead you, hopefully, to where you want to go. There have been times when I felt that if I made the wrong turn, I'd never find my way out. And don't ask anyone where to go since if they do reply, they won't know either. Of course, New Yorkers will tell you that this will all be sorted out when the construction is done, but I haven't seen any evidence (over the past 10-12 years) that this is drawing to any conclusion soon!
That said, if you do have to get from building to building or to and from parking lots, there are free busses available. However, you should know that they can be few and far between (their web page says they run every 5-30 minutes!), even during peak hours.
Impressions on Arrival:
I have to say that overseas visitors will find this airport to look very old, dirty and dull. This is especially true of Terminal 7 which serves British Airways. There is nothing in the décor of this building to make you feel like you've just arrived in the "Land Where the Streets are Paved in Gold". Low ceilings, harsh lighting, garish ads along the walls combined with carpets that should have been replaced years ago will make you feel like you're entering a converted WW2 tube station and not the Gateway to the USA. The passport control area is cramped and understaffed - looking like it was put up as an afterthought in an old storage room, rather than one of the important stopping spots for any arriving passenger. The luggage collection area has to be the worst part of the whole arrival process. The floors are marked up and scruffy, the signage inconveniently placed and difficult to see, and if you have to use the loo, I suggest that you find a tree outside since you'll not want to enter the facilities they have there due to the filth and stench.
You'd think with all the construction they've been doing they could have funneled some of the funds into the washrooms by the luggage claim area, wouldn't you? Obviously the airport tax from British citizens isn't enough to warrant letting you relieve yourself in a clean or pleasant environment. If this was only true of Terminal 7, then perhaps we could ask Blair and Bush to have it out. However, I've also been in other terminals and haven't found them to be much better. I do have to say, however, that Terminals 2 & 3 that belong to Delta are the least offensive of the terminals - being relatively cleaner and with a slightly newer looking décor. Still, its hardly what you would call welcoming and if that's the face they put on for America to "Greet the World", I'd hate to see its ugly back-side!
Probably the best part of leaving the US from JFK is that fact that you're leaving and you won't have to go back to this airport again on your trip! Then, when you plan your next visit to the US, you'll know better and will endeavor to fly into another international airport instead. You think I'm joking? Well, I'm not. If it wasn't for the fact that you know you're leaving and don't have to return, departing from JFK would be unbearable, to say the least. Crowds are horrific, the counter workers are rude and unfriendly, the signage is confusing and in all of the terminals I've been to, I feel like I'm being pressed into a cattle-car by the dark and depressive décor.
I have to admit, however, that the restrooms for the departure terminals are almost clean, if not very modern or kept in good working order. The last two times I was forced to depart from JFK, I found that there were always lines for the ladies because 10-15% of the stalls were out of order. So, although the hygiene might have been at an acceptable level, the fact that they don't fix what's broken is not acceptable in the least.
As for the décor of the departures terminals, I have to say that these seem stark, at best. I'm assuming that they were attempting to look modern, but what they ended up with was more like pseudo-prison. This is what I found in the Delta terminal, the British Airways terminal as well as the American Airlines terminal. We found here that there is practically no signage in the areas between the check-in and the security checks before you get to the gates. I'm thinking that since there's just one or two ways to get from the check-in to the security and gates, they didn't bother to put any signs up. In one terminal that can get you to wandering and when you do get to the gate area, find out that you've wandered the complete wrong way and now have to wander back again. Weary travelers beware!
This could have been worse. I'd say that considering the hours that I've left JFK, the check-in procedure seems to go pretty smoothly. While these days there are slightly longer lines because they no longer allow "curb-side check-in", this airport does seem large enough to handle the extra traffic. So while we did have to wait in lines, on all of the departures I've had, the lines seem to move pretty swiftly and efficiently. Of course, had there been flight delays I'm sure that this might have lengthened our lines - but that's to be expected.
What's a visit to an airport without stopping by the different shops? Here's the one reason why I won't give JFK a lonely one star. The shops they have here in all of the terminals seem to be very nice. Large selections, well lit, lots of different types of shops and even if you don't find any bargain prices (in fact, you'll probably find no bargains whatsoever), you'll find it a great way to pass the time between check-in and departure. Perfect for that last minute kitsch souvenir shopping or to get yourself some reading material or a quick snack before take-off. What's best is the fact that these shops are decorated by the owners and not by the airport authority, and they keep the departures lounges from looking medicinal.
Oh, and for the smokers among us - this is a non-smoking airport. However, I do believe I noticed one restaurant that people were smoking in - but that was years ago and I think that's changed as well. So for the smokers - sorry, you gotta go outside for your fag. No, not even a smoking area that I could find. But for you non-smokers, you're in luck, but that's the way it is these days for almost all US airports.
In this day and age, security has to be one of the top things on anyone's list when traveling. But to tell you the truth, I'm really not terribly pleased with many of the airport security measures these days. What I have found, however, is that the level of security is different from airline to airline, and not from airport to airport. JFK was no exception regarding not bothering to check cars going into the parking lots and not bothering to check busses or taxis before they enter the airport area. Since I live in Israel, I guess I'm a bit overly aware of security, but you'd think that after 9/11 the security measures of the airports themselves would have stepped up somewhat. Not so - but that's apparently been dumped on the airlines.
All in all, I have to say that the New York Port Authority is lucky that there are double-indemnity laws in the US because if the man JFK wasn't already dead, then someone could have easily have jailed them for murdering JFK a second time through the airport named after him. Of course, with all the construction that's been done since my last visit, you would think that things got better, wouldn't you? Well, apparently not! Too bad, that.
Bottom line - if you're going to visit the USA, I suggest you try entering and leaving from any international airport OTHER than JFK (say, Newark, for instance) - because the greeting you'll get here will be pretty darn ugly one, indeed.
Thanks for reading.
The official website can be found at http://www.panynj.gov/aviation/jfkframe.HTM
If you want to write to them, their pages have a feedback link. Or you can write to: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Al Graser, General Manager, Building 14, Jamaica, New York 11430.
Considering that New York is one of the biggest 24 hour cities in the world I have been disspaointed twice by the same airport. Destination wise, the airport is really good, there are 9 seperate terminals that make up JFK several of which are specifically for one or two airlines with the rest distributed around the other terminals. The airport itself is about 1 hour from Manhatten or about 25 miles and is in the borough of Queens. Getting a cab from the airport is easy once you find the taxi rank, and only use yellow cabs. There is a standard fee of $35 from the airport to Mahatten, but on the way back to the airport you must pay for time spent in traffic. There are a number of interesting and useful facilities offered by the airport and companies making money from newly landed tourists. There are cab ranks at each and every terminal, but due to the amount of passangers traveling through each terminal and the cab shortage in New York means that there are huge queues. Try the buses, you can buy the tickets there and they either go to port authority or you can switch buses and go most hotels. There are very few shops in the airport although for those waiting to pick you up the shops have great views of the runways. There is one duty free shop per terminal, and each is small and pokey. The authorities recomend buying cigarettes there as everything else is cheaper in the city. The toilets are clean, and there are alot of stairs, although a few lifts, it can be a long walk to the gate! If you are waiting several hours between check in and take off then whichever terminal you go from I assure you will be bored. There is none of the luxurys of Gatwick or Heathrow, in that there are lots of shops and interesting things to do. There are McDonald's but they are alot more expensive even than the city and you will have to fight for a chair. Unlike Gatwick or Heathrow there is little to do once you go through passport control.
I would advise you leave about 15 minutes to get through to passport control and then another 10ish minutes to walk to the gate, but don't go through too early because there is nothing at all there. For the smokers out there, as in the rest of New York you may not smoke inside at all. At the British Airways terminal there is a small smoking room, but I didn't see one at the other terminal I have been at. I would advise the smokers to stock up on nicotine before they go through the gate as there is little chance of smoking afterwards. However, getting to New York requires getting into the countriy which is harder than it seems. I would recomend that you check all your forms before you get in the queue as immigration men arent that nice and answer all the questions they ask perfectly. This september I waited for over an hour at immigration, only to have a really hard time getting into the country and being nearly reduced to tears by the man there. After an hours wait one would have thought it would be easy to find ones luggage, however that too was tough. Eventually we found ours in a pile at the side of the carosel. When getting out of USA it was alot easier. There is very little to do at the airport, and with the exception of a McDonalds and a few seats there was little there. I also had trouble getting through the gates, having thought we were going straight to the gates I left it late only to have to queue for 10 minutes, to show my passport, go through the scanner and then take off my shoes! After that we were checked again at the gate and the lady made me drink some of my water and took peoples zippo lighters off them and throw them away, I was quite shocked. The best part of JFK was simply to get on my 7 hour flight, which was full of babies and young children and get back to a film that wasn't in English!