Newest Review: ... on the last two trips I made to the US I used this airport. I have arrived at it, transited through it and departed from it on both those ... more
A Great Hub Airport for Transiting Through
New York Newark Airport
Member Name: rosebud2001
New York Newark Airport
Advantages: Clean and spacious, good public transport links, plenty of shops and restaurants
Disadvantages: International check - in is chaotic and slow, as is security, lack of toilets
On my very first flight to New York City in 1999 I flew into Newark Airport. I don't recall much about it from then and I had a couple more flights to and from there over time but by and large if I was flying to New York I would fly in and out of JFK.
Since moving back to Scotland if I want to fly direct to the US I have limited options. There's either Continental Airlines to Newark or US Airways to Philadelphia. The Continental option wins hands down both on airline quality and on which airport is the best to travel to or transit through.
Newark Liberty International Airport - the "Liberty" was added after 9/11 - is located across the Hudson River in New Jersey. If you are staying in lower Manhattan Newark is closer than JFK, which is located out in Queens to the east of Manhattan.
It costs around $80 including tolls and a tip to take a taxi from Newark Liberty to midtown Manhattan. I prefer to take the AirTrain and the NJ Transit train to Penn Station in New York - this involves carrying luggage further but it only costs $12.50 and trains tend to run around every 20 minutes or so - and the journey time is 20 minutes too. The trains are spacious but could use a little more luggage space. The AirTrain which connects the terminals runs every couple of minutes and takes you to the train station for the NJ Transit train. You can also get Amtrak trains to Boston and Philadelphia here.
Alternatively you can take a bus - there are many companies that offer services to locations dotted throughout Manhattan and certainly the bus may be better if you are staying at a hotel some distance from midtown. Fares tend to be around $15 one way.
The airport is one of Continental Airlines' main hubs. Continental is in the process of merging with United Airlines so I suppose that's going to change to a United Airlines hub in the near future. For now the airline is still called Continental and they fly to Newark Liberty from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham and Heathrow. British Airways, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic also serve the airport from the UK.
If you fly Continental you can connect at Newark Liberty to travel throughout the United States and to many destinations in Central and South America. Although many airlines from around the world use Newark Liberty, the vast majority of flights are served by Continental.
I have used Newark Liberty several times over the years and on the last two trips I made to the US I used this airport. I have arrived at it, transited through it and departed from it on both those trips.
***Arriving at Newark***
The last two trips I have taken on Continental have been from Scotland - with one trip from Edinburgh and the other from Glasgow. The Glasgow flight leaves quite early in the morning and I have to say I like this as it tends to be one of the first international flights to arrive meaning the queues at Immigration tend not to be too long. When I arrived at Newark Liberty last year on the Edinburgh flight which departs slightly later than the Glasgow one I waited around 20 minutes but this year I was through Immigration in less than 10 minutes, which is the fastest time ever for me.
The Immigration hall is large and there are staff on hand to answer any queries you may have. There are toilets here too if you get taken short.
On my 2010 trip I was departing the airport to spend a few days in New York City so I picked up my bags, cleared Customs and headed on my way. This was a smooth affair and it's easy to find which baggage carousel to head for from the signs dotted throughout the Baggage Reclaim area.
This year I was transiting through Newark Liberty on arrival and had a 5 hour layover at the airport. The transit area for Continental was easy to find so once we had retrieved our bags from the carousel and cleared Customs we headed here where our bags were taken to be placed on our connecting flight to Las Vegas.
***Transiting through Newark***
If you transit through Newark on Continental Airlines you will most likely be using Terminal C although they do have some flights from other terminals. You can walk from one terminal to the other if you are through security - which you obviously are if you are staying airside on a layover - and this gives you a good choice of shops and restaurants to visit to help you pass the time.
There are lots of souvenir style shops, copious branches of Hudson News for books, magazines and overpriced soft drinks, and stores such as the Swatch Shop, Body Shop and Coach, along with Travelex Currency exchanges and some ATMs.
There are many restaurants in the three terminals too including a food court with a McDonalds and establishments you are more likely to want to tarry in.
I must be honest here and say I only ever eat at the Garden State Diner which is located in Terminal C and is a 1950s style American diner. The food here is brilliant - and I particularly love their Chicken Orzo Soup - and the service is good too. If you like traditional American burgers and sandwiches you will love it here.
If that doesn't float your boat there's sushi, a steakhouse, Mexican, pizza and several other cuisines to choose from.
There's plenty of seating around the gates and if you wish there's some seating which affords brilliant views of the planes arriving and departing and a view of Manhattan in the distance.
I had been worried we would be bored during our 5 hour layover but it passed quickly and I must admit I enjoyed indulging in a bit of plane watching!
I tend to find the worst aspect of any airport is checking in and going through security, and Newark Liberty was no exception. In fact the airport loses two stars purely because of the chaotic check in for international flights and the lack of security points.
When I used Newark to depart in 2010 I was taking a domestic flight to Las Vegas and the process was fairly quick and easy using automated check in points. Sadly if you are taking an international flight the process is far less straightforward and there weren't enough check in points open when we were waiting to check in for our return flight to Glasgow this year.
I am a cautious traveller and always leave at least three hours before my flight is due to depart when I check in for a flight to or from the US as I know security is tight. It's just as well I did this as the check in procedure was so disorganised we were continually pushed down the line by people who were brought forward for flights departing before ours.
This was awful but the queue at security was even worse. On my 2011 departure I was travelling with my sister who had gold status with Star Alliance. Continental Airlines are part of the Star Alliance so this meant we could use a queue specifically for people who had high status with the alliance but the queue was just as bad as the queue for people without status. Many people were starting to get upset because they were in danger of missing their flight so the entire experience was unpleasant. Our wait was then extended by these people being allowed to queue jump.
I would say if you are flying on an evening international flight from Newark Liberty you should allow 4 hours to check in and get through security. This may seem excessive but before you board the plane the gate staff on occasions need to check everyone's passports individually which adds to the time you need before departure.
The airport is spacious and as a result you can find yourself having a bit of a walk to find your gate after you finally clear security. It's not as bad as some US airports I have used (Philadelphia being the worst) but again allow time to get from security to your gate as you might need 15 minutes if your gate is one of the more remote ones. Assistance is available for the elderly and disabled to get to gates - you should ask your airline on check in for this.
There is ample seating at the gates for flights as well and I have never had to stand here whilst waiting to board a flight. The seating is comfortable and has arm rests, which seems to prevent people from hogging several seats at a time for luggage or to lie down.
I've travelled through and to many airports in the US and have learned that no two airports are the same in the country. I have a soft spot for Newark Liberty however because it's got enough to keep me occupied when I transit through it, and also offers brilliant views of Manhattan on arrival or departure and from the ground.
It's easy to get to without a car and I have found the Immigration and Customs staff to generally be polite and efficient. This may sound like par for the course but unfortunately I have encountered some really rude and surly Immigration staff elsewhere (Chicago being the place that particularly stays in my mind) so it's worth mentioning.
The main problem seem to be with departures from Newark Liberty and certainly if US law doesn't allow online check-in for international flights then the airport needs to consider having more check in staff and expanding the security areas.
My other gripe about Newark Liberty is a lack of toilets. When you compare the airport to the likes of Gatwick or Heathrow which seem to have toilets adjacent to almost every gate, you realise how few facilities there are. Once you get inside you can expect a queue and a cleaner fighting a losing battle against the crowds of people using them.
For all this I still prefer Newark Liberty to JFK when flying to New York - for all the crowds at Newark it's still quieter than JFK and it's quicker to get to via public transport.
You can also fly to this airport from more UK destinations direct and that alone has to make it worth considering, along with the ease of transiting through it to travel elsewhere.
Summary: Great for transiting through, not so good for international departures
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