PSA: How NOT to Transit Between Airports in New York City

Sometimes when traveling I think I’ll save some time and energy, but in this case my choice was a total bust. There are so many articles that tell you HOW TO get from one airport to the city center or from one airport to another, but unfortunately I’ve got a story about how NOT to get from one place to another! This may not pertain to most of you, but if it helps even one other person from making the mistake that I made, I’d be pleased.

I needed to get from JFK International Airport to EWR Newark International Airport. Strange but true. It’s not often we transit from one airport to another, I know. After doing some research I opted for a company called ETS Airport Shuttle that offers direct shuttle service between the airports without going through NYC. Even though it cost $34, I thought I’d save time and also the stress of transiting through NYC and then getting out to EWR.

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I called ETS a few times while doing my initial research, and each time the women who answered the phone were helpful and seemed to know what they were talking about. I was told the shuttle service ran every hour on the half hour and that no reservation was needed as I could pay when I landed at JFK.

My flight landed at 2:30 PM at JFK so I figured if I hustled and my bags came out quickly I could easily clear customs and catch the 3:30 PM shuttle service. Initially my plan went well. By 3 PM I had paid for the shuttle and was told it would come at 3:30 PM. The shuttle showed up 40 minutes late. Their system is that the shuttle driver comes into the terminal to get you, so this takes quite a bit of time. And we still had to stop at another terminal before leaving JFK, so this added even more time to our late departure.

But wait, it gets worse. The van, which seated eight people, was full. The van was old, in bad shape, and each time we hit a bump I thought we’d lose our transmission. The driver drove in the carpool lane and drove slowly so that all the cars were speeding by us in the lane next to us. And he was nodding off! Yup, the driver was having a hard time staying awake.

I was in the last seat in the van and there were three guys in the front seats. Guys can be pretty stoic in these situations, but at one point one of the guys said to the driver, “Are you awake?” We were all glad the passenger spoke up because I think by then we had all seen that the driver was nodding off but no one wanted to say anything.

When we all finally got out of the van at EWR there was so much nervous glad-we-made-it energy that we had to talk amongst ourselves for a few minutes to debrief from the trip and driver experience! Then we went our separate ways.

From the time I paid for my ETS shuttle ticket, this trip from JFK to EWR took just under three hours. Taking public transportation into NYC and then a train out to Newark Airport would likely have taken the same amount of time, or less. Surely it would have cost a lot less than $34 and maybe I’d have a few less gray hairs, too!

I wouldn’t use ETS again, and if you ever need to transit between airports in the greater New York area, I’d suggest you cross ETS off your options list as well.

Do you have questions about travel, about hotels, or about packing? Email me, Shelli, with your Ask Anything and watch for it in a future post!

13 thoughts on “PSA: How NOT to Transit Between Airports in New York City

  1. Kathy (will run for miles)

    The problem with going to Newark from New York City (including Queens) is there’s basically just one route. If there’s traffic, you’re screwed. I have been in van’s that were so delayed due to traffic (and inept drivers) that many people missed their flights. I try to avoid flying out of EWR, but if I do, I usually opt for the NJ Transit train (unless its a super early morning flight, in which case, it’s Uber or SuperShuttle).

    1. Shelli Post author

      Good point about the absence of road choices, Kathy. Thanks. It was a quirky need because I came back from overseas through JFK and had to get back to San Diego quickly. I chose SWA non-stop from EWR. Won’t do that again. I used NJ Transit today to get from NYC to EWR and it was a breeze.

  2. Chris Bastian

    I’m going to dispute your “equivalent travel time for transit” estimate. That would be:
    5 min waiting time at JFK
    10 min JFK-Jamaica (AirTrain JFK)
    15 min waiting time at Jamaica
    20 min (LIRR)
    30 min waiting time at Penn
    24 min (NJ Transit)
    5 min waiting time at EWR RaIl Station
    10 min (AirTrain EWR)
    Total: 119 minutes (1:59)

    1. Shelli Post author

      Great comment, Christian. I am going to add a few more minutes to your estimate though. I did the AirTrain to EWR today and boy was it slow. I was going to terminal A however…….even with ten more minutes added your estimate does mean I wasted time and money which I’ll not do again!! Thanks for reading and taking the time to correct my math :))

    2. John

      This. Much easier, cheaper, faster, safer than some guy with a van. Odds are 30min wait at penn are high given a lot of trains stop at EWR Rail

      1. Shelli Post author

        True, John. I got to Penn station and the next train with a stop at EWR Rail was in 11 minutes. And the conductor will tell you to sit in the first 4 cars to save time connecting to AirTrain when at EWR Rail.

  3. gus

    Newark is the airport with the best train connection into the city, so it is actually the easiest to reach if you live on the west side of Manhattan. It’s not true that there is only one route into Manhattan. GW Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel – generally getting into NYC takes much longer than going out, because of the toll going in and the way the traffic is routed. From Manhattan it is much faster to get to Newark than to JFK. I’ve never taken more than an hour to Newark, and I’ve often had to plan 2 hours to get to JFK. (my record, during some snowfall and gridlock, is 3:30 hours to JFK). Getting between these two airports, I would recommend a cab or uber if not during rush hour (it will run between $120 and $150 however). The second best option is the one @Chris mentions, using the Long Island Railroad and NJ Transit – cheap and extremely reliable. You are perhaps least likely to miss your flight with that option. It will however run almost $150.

    1. Shelli Post author

      Thanks for the info, Gus. I did transit from Manhattan to EWR today using the NJ Transit and AirTrain and it was a bit over an hour. Very smooth and easy way to go to EWR. Your record of 3:30 must have taken an awful lot of patience!!

  4. Carl

    Hi Shelli, thanks for the informative post! How much was the NJ Transit and Airtrain from Manhattan to EWR, btw?

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