BY PLANEThree major airports serve New York City: John F. Kennedy International Airport (tel. 718/244-4444) in Queens, about 15 miles (or one hours driving time) from midtown Manhattan; LaGuardia Airport (tel. 718/533-3400), also in Queens, about 8 miles (or 30 minutes) from midtown; and Newark International Airport (tel. 201/961-6000) in nearby New Jersey, about 16 miles (or 45 minutes) from midtown. Online information on all three airports is available at www.panynj.gov.
Almost every major domestic carrier serves at least one of these airports; most serve two or all three. Among them are America West (tel. 800/235-9292; www.americawest.com), American (tel. 800/433-7300; www.americanair.com), Continental (tel. 800/525-0280 or 800/523-3273; www.flycontinental.com), Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta-air.com), Northwest (tel. 800/225-2525; www.nwa.com), TWA (tel. 800/221-2000; www.twa.com), US Airways (tel. 800/ 428-4322; www.usairways.com), and United (tel. 800/241-6522; www.ual.com).
In recent years there has been rapid growth in the number of start-up, no-frills airlines serving New York. These smaller, sometimes struggling airlines may offer lower fares - but dont expect the same kind of service you get from the majors.
You might check out AirTran (tel. 800/AIRTRAN; www.airtran.com), Frontier (tel. 800/432-1359; www.frontierair.com), Spirit Airlines (tel. 800/772-7117; www.spiritair. com), Midway (tel. 800/446-4392; www.midwayair.com), Midwest Express (tel. 800/452-2022; www.midwestexpress.com), Tower Air (tel. 800/34-TOWER or 718/553-8500; www.towerair.com), ATA (tel. 800/I-FLY-ATA; www.ata.com), SunJet International (tel. 800/4-SUNJET; www.sunjet.com), and Sun Country (tel. 800/752-1218; www.suncountry.com). In addition, a new airline, New Air, is scheduled to begin serving New York at great discounts in fall 1999, but no other details were available at press time. And the nations leading discount airline, Southwest (tel. 800/435-9792; www.iflyswa.com), announced flights to MacArthur Airport on Long Island, 40 miles east of Manhattan, but there are no current plans to fly into the citys airports.
Most major international carriers also serve New York.
Keep in mind that its more convenient to fly into Newark than Kennedy if your destination is Manhattan, and consider that fares to Newark are often cheaper than the other airports. Newark can also be the most convenient if your hotel is in Midtown West or downtown near the World Trade Center.
Flying for Less: Tips for Getting the Best Airfares
Passengers within the same airplane cabin rarely pay the same fare for their seats. Business travelers who need to purchase tickets at the last minute, change their itinerary at a moments notice, or get home before the weekend pay the premium rate, known as the full fare. Passengers who can book their ticket in advance and commit to a fixed itinerary will pay a fraction of the full fare. On most flights, even the shortest hops, the full fare is close to $1,000 or more, but youll most likely pay a lot less if you buy a 7-day or 14-day advance purchase ticket. Here are a few other easy ways to save.
Periodically, airlines lower prices on their most popular routes, which often include New York. Check your newspaper for advertised discounts or call the airlines directly and ask if any promotional rates or special fares are available. Youll almost never see a sale during the peak summer vacation months of July and August, or during the Thanksgiving or Christmas seasons; in periods of low-volume travel, however, you should pay no more than $400 for a cross-country flight.
Note, however, that the lowest-priced fares are often nonrefundable, require advance purchase of one to three weeks and a certain length of stay, and carry penalties for changing dates of travel. So, when youre quoted a fare, make sure you know exactly what the restrictions are before you commit.
Consolidators, also known as bucket shops, are a good place to find low fares, often below even the airlines discounted rates. Theres nothing shady about the reliable ones - basically, theyre just big travel agents that get discounts for buying in bulk and pass some of the savings on to you. Before you pay, however, ask for a confirmation number from the consolidator and then call the airline itself to confirm your seat. Be prepared to book your ticket with a different consolidator - there are many to choose from - if the airline cant confirm your reservation. Also be aware that consolidator tickets are usually non-refundable or come with stiff cancellation penalties.
Small ads for consolidators usually run in the Sunday travel section of major newspapers at the bottom of the page. But I recommend going with one of these reliable companies: Ive gotten great deals on a number of occasions from Cheap Tickets (tel. 800/377-1000 or 212/570-1179; www.cheaptickets.com). Council Travel (tel. 800/226-8624; www.counciltravel.com) and STA Travel (tel. 800/ 781-4040; www.sta.travel.com) cater especially to young travelers, but their bargain-basement prices are available to people of all ages. Travel Bargains (tel. 800/AIR-FARE; www.1800airfare.com) was formerly owned by TWA but now offers the deepest discounts on many other airlines, with a four-day advance purchase. Other reliable consolidators include 1-800-FLY-4-LESS; Cheap Seats (tel. 800/451-7200; www.cheapseatstravel.com); 1-800-FLY-CHEAP (www. 1800flycheap.com); and "rebators" such as Travel Avenue (tel. 800/333-3335 or 312/876-1116) and the Smart Traveller (tel. 800/448-3338 or 305/448-3338), which rebate part of their commissions to you.
Search the Internet for cheap fares - though its still best to compare your findings with the research of a dedicated travel agent, if youre lucky enough to have one, especially when youre booking more than just a flight. A few of the better-respected virtual travel agents are Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) and Microsoft Expedia (www.expedia.com). Each has its own little quirks--Travelocity and Expedia both require you to register with them--but they all provide variations of the same service. Just enter the dates you want to fly and the cities you want to visit, and the computer roots out the lowest fares. Expedias site will e-mail you the best airfare deal once a week if you so choose. Travelocity uses the SABRE computer reservations system that most travel agents use, and has a "Last Minute Deals" database that advertises really cheap fares for those who can get away at a moments notice. Another good bet is Arthur Frommers Budget Travel (www.frommers.com), which offers detailed information on 200 destinations around the world, plus ways to save on flights, hotels, car reservations, and cruises. Book an entire vacation online, or direct your travel questions to Arthur himself. The newsletter is updated daily to keep you abreast of the latest-breaking ways to save.
Great last-minute deals are also available through E-savers, which are free e-mail services provided directly by the airlines. Each week, the airline sends you a list of discounted flights, usually leaving the upcoming Friday or Saturday and returning the following Monday or Tuesday. You can sign up at each airlines Web site (see "By Plane" above for Web addresses).
Better yet, save yourself the headache and register with Smarter Living (www.smarterliving.com). Every week youll get a customized e-mail summarizing the discount fares available from your departure city. Smarter Living tracks more than 15 different airlines, so its a worthwhile time-saver. The site also features concise lists of links to hotel, car rental, and other hot travel deals.
Transportation to & from the New York Area Airports
Since theres no need to rent a car for a visit to New York, youre going to have to figure out how you want to get from the airport to your hotel and back.
For complete transportation information for all three airports (JFK, La Guardia, and Newark), call Air-Ride (tel. 800/247-7433); it gives recorded details on bus and shuttle companies and private car services registered with the New York and New Jersey Port Authority.
On the arrivals level at each airport, the Port Authority also has Ground Transportation Information counters where you can get information and book on all manner of transport. Most transportation companies also have courtesy phones near the baggage-claim area.
Generally, travel time between the airports and midtown Manhattan by taxi or car is one hour for JFK, 45 minutes for La Guardia, and 50 minutes for Newark. Always allow extra time, though, especially during rush hour, peak holiday travel times, and if youre taking a bus.
SUBWAYS & PUBLIC BUSESFor the most part, your best bet is to stay away from the MTA when traveling to and from the airport. You might save a few dollars, but subways and buses that currently serve the airports involve multiple transfers and staircases up and down which you must drag your luggage. On some subways youd be traveling through undesirable neighborhoods. Spare yourself the drama.
The only exception to this rule that I feel comfortable with is the subway service to and from JFK--but you should only consider it if money is extremely tight and youre already well-versed in the ways of New York. Its a huge hassle, and you should expect it to take 90 minutes or more, but you can take the A train, which connects to one of two free shuttle buses that serve all the JFK terminals. Upon exiting the terminal, pick up the shuttle bus (marked long term parking lot) out front; it takes you to the Howard Beach station, where you pick up the A train to the west side of Manhattan. Service is every 10 to 15 minutes during rush hour and every 20 minutes at midday, and the subway fare is $1.50. If youre traveling to JFK from Manhattan, be sure to take the A train that says far rockaway or rockaway park - not lefferts boulevard. Get off at the Howard Beach/JFK Airport station and connect to the shuttle bus, A or B, that goes to your terminal (theyre clearly marked, and theres usually a guide to point you to the right one). The subway can actually be more reliable than taking a car or taxi at the height of rush hour, but a few words of warning: This isnt the right option for you if youre bringing more than a single piece of luggage, since theres a good amount of walking and some stairs involved in the trip, and youll have nowhere to put it on the subway train. And do not use this method if youre traveling to or from the airport after dark, or too early in the morning - its just not safe.
TAXISTaxis are a quick and convenient way to travel to and from the airports. Theyre available at designated taxi stands outside the terminals, with uniformed dispatchers on hand during peak hours (follow the ground transportation or taxi signs).
There may be a long line, but it generally moves pretty quickly. Fares, whether fixed or metered, do not include bridge and tunnel tolls ($3.50 to $4) or a tip for the cabbie (15% to 20% is customary). They do include all passengers in the cab and luggage - never pay more than the metered or flat rate, except for tolls and a tip (from 8pm to 6am a 50¢ surcharge also applies on New York yellow cabs). Taxis have a limit of four passengers, so if there are more in your group, youll have to take more than one cab.
From JFK: At press time, the flat rate of $30 to and from Manhattan (plus any tolls and tip) was still in effect. The meter will not be turned on and the surcharge will not be added. If the flat rate has been overturned by the time you arrive (the cabbies really hate it), expect the fare to be metered and run $30 to $40.
From La Guardia. $20 to $25, metered.
From Newark. The dispatcher for New Jersey taxis gives you a slip of paper with a flat rate ranging from $30 to $45 (toll and tip extra), depending on where youre going in Manhattan, so youll have to be precise about your destination. New York yellow cabs arent permitted to pick up passengers at Newark. The yellow-cab fare from Manhattan to Newark is the meter amount plus $10 and tolls (about $40 to $50, perhaps a few dollars more with tip). New Jersey taxis arent permitted to take passengers from Manhattan to Newark.
PRIVATE CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICESPrivate car and limousine companies provide convenient 24-hour door-to-door airport transfers. The advantage they offer over taking a taxi is that you can arrange your pick-up in advance and avoid the hassles of the taxi line. Call at least 24 hours in advance (even earlier on holidays), and a driver will meet you near baggage claim or at your hotel for a return trip. Youll probably be asked to leave a credit card number to guarantee your ride; youll likely be offered the choice of indoor or curbside pickup. Vehicles range from sedans to vans to limousines and tend to be relatively clean and comfortable. Prices vary slightly by company and the size of car reserved, but expect to pay around the same as you would for a taxi if you request a basic sedan and have only one stop; toll and tip policies are the same. (Note that car services are not subject to the flat-rate rule that taxis have for rides to and from JFK.) Ask when booking what the fare will be and if you can use your credit card to pay for the ride so there are no surprises at drop-off time. There may be waiting charges tacked on if the driver has to wait an excessive amount of time for your plane to land when picking you up, but the car companies will usually check on your flight beforehand to get an accurate landing time.
Ive had the best luck with Carmel (tel. 800/922-7635 or 212/666-6666); Legends (tel. 800/legends or 718/788-1234); Executive Town Car & Limousines (tel. 800/ 716-2799 or 516/538-8551), which also serves New Jersey and Connecticut; and Allstate (tel. 800/453-4099 or 212/741-7440). All have good cars, responsive dispatchers, and polite drivers.
PRIVATE BUSES & SHUTTLESBuses and shuttle services provide a comfortable and less expensive (but usually more time-consuming) option for airport transfers than do taxis and car services.
Gray Line Air Shuttle and Super Shuttle serve all three airports; New York Airport Service serves JFK and La Guardia; Olympia Trails serves Newark. These services are my favorite option for getting to and from Newark during peak travel times because the drivers usually take lesser-known surface streets that make the ride much quicker than if you go with a taxi or car, which will virtually always stick to the traffic-clogged main route.
Gray Line Air Shuttle (tel. 1-800-669-0051) http://www.graylinenewyork.com) vans depart JFK, La Guardia, and Newark every 20 minutes between 7am and 11:30pm. They will drop you off at most hotels between 23rd and 63rd streets in Manhattan, or Port Authority (34th Street and Seventh Avenue) or Grand Central (42nd Street and Park Avenue) terminals if you need to catch a subway to another part of town or a train to the burbs. No reservation is required; just go to the ground-transportation desk or use the courtesy phone in the baggage-claim area and ask for Gray Line. Service from most major mid-Manhattan hotels to all three airports operates 5am to 7pm; you must call a day in advance to arrange a hotel pickup. The one-way fare to and from JFK is $19, to and from La Guardia is $16, and to and from Newark is $19, but you can save a few bucks by pre-paying your round-trip at the airport ($28 for JFK and Newark, $26 for LaGuardia).
The familiar blue vans of Super Shuttle (tel. 800/258-3826 or 718/482-9703; www.supershuttle.com/nyc.htm) serve all three area airports, providing door-to-door service to Manhattan and points on Long Island every 15 to 30 minutes around the clock. As with Gray Line, you dont need to reserve your airport-to-Manhattan ride; just go to the ground-transportation desk or use the courtesy phone in the baggage-claim area and ask for Super Shuttle. Hotel pickups for your return trip require 24 to 48 hours advance booking. One-way fares are $15 to and from JFK, $14 to and from LaGuardia, and $17 to and from Newark.
New York Airport Service (tel. 718/706-9658) buses travel from JFK and La Guardia to the Port Authority Bus Terminal (42nd Street and Eighth Avenue), Penn Station (34th Street and Seventh Avenue), Grand Central Terminal (Park Avenue between 41st and 42nd streets), or your midtown hotel, plus the Jamaica LIRR Station in Queens, where you can pick up a train for Long Island. Follow the ground transportation signs to the curbside pickup or look for the uniformed agent. Buses depart the airport every 20 to 70 minutes (depending on your departure point and destination) between 6:30am and midnight. Buses to JFK and La Guardia depart the Port Authority and Grand Central Terminal on the Park Avenue side every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day and the day of the week. To request direct shuttle service from your hotel, call the above number at least 24 hours in advance. One-way fare for JFK is $13, and $10 to and from La Guardia; children under 12 ride free with a parent.
Olympia Trails (tel. 888/662-7700 or 212/964-6233; www.olympiabus.com) provides service every 5 to 15 minutes (less frequently during off hours) from Newark Airport to four Manhattan locations: the World Trade Center (on West Street, next to the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel), Penn Station (the pickup point is the northwest corner of 34th Street and Eighth Avenue and the drop-off point the southwest corner), the Port Authority Bus Terminal (on 42nd Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues), and Grand Central Terminal (41st Street between Park and Lexington). Passengers to and from the Grand Central Terminal location can connect to Olympias midtown shuttle vans, which service most hotels between 30th and 65th streets. From the above departure points in Manhattan, service runs every 15 to 30 minutes depending on your pickup point; call for exact schedule. The one-way fare is $10, or $15 if you connect to the hotel shuttle.