For those visiting Manhattan, getting to the airport in time for a flight can be a challenging task. Gridlock can cause significant delays during taxi journeys. The subway can be too complicated for some. While helicopters can be fast, arriving at the helipad on time can be difficult. Then, there’s the Long Island Rail Road, which many find perplexing.

To alleviate the stress of a Manhattan airport transfer journey, travel experts at The Points Guy decided to determine which mode of transportation is best for a quick departure from the city for departing flyers. They conducted a four-way race from Times Square to the new Terminal 8 at JFK Airport using a yellow taxi, the subway, the Long Island Rail Road, and a helicopter.

The competition was documented, and the racers shared their opinions on the ups and downs of their journey. The Points Guy’s coverage of the race offers a sneak peek into this exciting contest.

NYC Subway

Three people, two men and one woman, waiting for their subway train in 125 st. station in New York City - Fastest Way to Reach JFK from Manhattan
Photo Credit: Getty Images

One of the racers in the competition to find the best way to get from Manhattan to JFK Airport was Melanie Lieberman, Senior Hotels Editor. She opted to take the subway and paid $2.75 for a single-ride fare to Sutphin Boulevard–Archer Avenue. There, she switched to the AirTrain for $8.25, making a total of $11.

Speaking to MailOnline Travel, Lieberman shared her thoughts on the experience. She noted that the subway was the cheapest option for those on a budget. It was also convenient since there were multiple subway stations throughout the city. She mentioned that, even during rush hour, taking the train was faster than sitting in traffic.

However, there were downsides to taking the subway. Lieberman mentioned that it can be challenging to navigate the various platforms, stairs, and crowds with luggage unless the stations are accessible. Additionally, if travelers aren’t paying attention, they could end up on the wrong subway platform for a while.

Lieberman also advised that travelers should pre-load their Metrocard to pay for the AirTrain since a monthly unlimited pass or tap-and-go options aren’t accepted. Otherwise, they will need to build in extra time to purchase a ticket.


Yellow taxi driving in Times square - fastest way to get to JFK from Manhattan
Photo Credit: Taton Moise

Madison Blancaflor, Global Features Editor, and Liam Spencer took on the journey by taxi at the rate of $98.16. 

The duo had some issues securing one of NYC’s famous yellow cabs, but it was smooth running once they did.

The positives, they said, included the taxi being “incredibly convenient, especially if you have luggage”, with “no additional walking required.”

They stressed, “Once you hail a taxi, you’ll be dropped off right in front of your terminal.” Plus, they said, “You are on your own timeline because you don’t have to get to a train or subway station at a specific time, nor do you have to wait for trains or make multiple stops along the way.”

Comfort is a factor, too. They added, “You’re alone in a taxi rather than being crowded into a train, giving you room to spread out and be comfortable on your ride.”

What about the downsides? The price, for one thing.

“We did pay nearly $100 when all was said and done. It’s definitely a more expensive way to get to the airport compared to taking public transportation or a train,” they said.

The pair added, “Sometimes, you can make excellent time because the roads are clear. But construction, an accident, or just a busy traffic day on the roads can cause serious delays.”

Long Island Rail Road

Inside view of Penn Station - is rail the fastest way to get to JFK from Manhattan
Photo Credit: Aleksander Pavlovic

Senior Editor Tanner Saunders opted for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to make his way to the airport. He paid a total of $13.25 — a train to Jamaica for $5 and then $8.25 for the AirTrain.

According to Tanner, the convenience and comfort of the LIRR were the two major positives of his journey. He praised the new Grand Central Madison terminal for being sparkling clean and beautiful, and the ability to get a direct train from Grand Central made the journey super convenient, quick, and easy.

Tanner noted that traveling with luggage on the LIRR was a superior experience as he was able to snag a seat in a near-empty train that was clean, comfortable, and spacious compared to taking the subway. However, there were a few downsides that he pointed out.

Saunders mentioned that it can be challenging to find the new Grand Central Madison terminal and requires taking multiple escalators. He also noted that having to transfer from the Long Island Rail Road at Jamaica can be a crowded experience. Additionally, for the AirTrain, one needs to have a Metrocard preloaded with money to enter, or they have to wait in line to purchase one.

After getting off the AirTrain, travelers must walk quite a distance to the airport terminal. Despite the downsides, Tanner’s experience on the LIRR was comfortable and convenient.


Black helicopter - Is a helicopter the fastest way to get to JFK airport from Times Square
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Head of The Points Guy UK, Nicky Kelvin, was fortunate enough to experience the luxurious Blade helicopter ride, which cost a whopping $295, including a $100 ground transfer. Nicky said the helicopter ride was about speed, taking only five minutes to reach JFK airport.

The Blade lounge was also quite comfortable, with complimentary refreshments, and the helicopter provided spectacular views of Manhattan and the airport, perfect for those who love planes.

However, there were some downsides to this opulent transfer. Nicky mentioned that getting to the departure point could be time-consuming if you were far from the heliports in Manhattan. Moreover, the experience is much more expensive than other transportation methods, but during busy times, a cab could cost almost as much, if not more. Additionally, Nicky advised that this transfer may not be ideal for nervous flyers.

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