How to get to Manhattan with the AirTrain. Every step of the way with pictures

Yes, I know. The article is pretty long but don’t go crazy. It is this long just because it is really detailed and has pictures to go with you every step of the way and help you get to Manhattan cheaply and quickly.

When I first visited New York City, it didn’t even cross my mind to take the AirTrain. It looked very complicated for me and I had to investigate and learn how to use it and that was not in my plans.  The second year I wen to NYC I realized there was nothing complicated about taking the AirTrain and in fact, by using it, I was saving more than a couple of dollars.

I hope that with this simple explanations you can make use of this wonderful train service that connects to the subways stations, bus stations, other NY areas and New Jersey.

The AirTrain is a train that goes around John F. Kennedy International Airport taking you to the terminals, the parking areas, the car rentals and the hotel shuttles for free but also, it takes you to the subway stations and bus stations as well as the Long Island Rail Road for an additional cost. 

Bear in mind that depending on which terminal your plane lands you may see something different from the pictures when you get out of the airport. May be not that different but the pictures of this article belong to the terminal where my plane landed: Terminal 7 of JFK .

How do I get to the AirTrain?

I will walk you through the Airport to the AirTrain.

So you landed, you got off your plane, you went through customs and you picked up your luggage. You reached the entrance of the Terminal.

Once you got there this is the first thing you will see. The sign that tell you how to get to the AirTrain.

If you pay attention, to the right side of the picture, you will see a sign that reads ‘Welcome Center’, there you can get all the information you need to carry on with your trip and, if you are a fan of brochures as I am, you will be delighted to see all the different ones you can get there, like, subways and bus maps amongst others.

The picture above is similar to the previous one but you can see more clearly the AirTrain sign. As the sign indicates, you make a right and you will find this:


This lady shows you all the places you can go with the AirTrain so once you said Hi! you can go ahead and exit the terminal where you will see this sign.

Now, you have to cross the street in front of you and on the other side this is what you will see. Pay attention to how well signaled everything is. There is no way you can’t get to the AirTrain.



After you see this just make a left through this huge door. 

When you go through the doors you will see this.

And finally, before getting on the elevator you will see this sign. Elevator to the right.

The buttons are kind of old, still you can read the one that says AirTrain and will take you one level up.


Once you got to the upper floor that is it! You just got to the AirTrain platform. You will see there are two sides on the platform and in the center this brochure stand with this information.





If you would like to take a look to this brochure just click here. 

Once you get a look around, depending on which part of Manhattan or New York you are heading to, you will take the train to HOWARD BEACH station that will connect to the line A of the subway (as you can see in the picture above) or, the train to JAMAICA station connecting to E, J and Z subway stations and with Long Island Rail Road station (LIRR station).

Which train is more convenient? The one to Howard Beach station or Jamaica station?


If you would like to go to the south of  Manhattan, Financial District, Chelsea, Soho and the Upper West Side, you have to take the train to HOWARD BEACH station and transfer to line A of the subway.
If you would like to go further south, close to Battery Park, you have to catch the train to JAMAICA STATION and transfer to lines J or Z of the subway.
If you would like to go to Times Square take the train to JAMAICA STATION y and transfer to the line E of the subway.
To go to  the Upper East Side, take the train to JAMAICA STATION transfer to line E and once you reached Manhattan you can transfer either to line Q or lines 4,6 or 6  depending on which parto of the island you want to go.


REMEMBER! NYC subway runs  24 hours a day, seven days a week. They run  at a reduced frequency during late night hours.

Once you reached the station of your preference, in this case mine was JAMAICA STATION, you will see all the way to the suway indicated on the signs and this one in particular.



When do I pay for the AirTrain?

You don’t have to pay for the Airtrain before using it but after. You will see there are no machines where to get your tickets nor anyone controlling this. You just follow the steps we mentioned before and once you get to the station you chose, you follow the path on the picture above and you will see the vending machines where you can pay for the AirTrain ticket. 


If you need  assistance with the machines or you just don’t understand something, look for the AirTrain employees, wearing bordeaux jackets.


How much does it cost?



The AirTrain fare is Us$5.00. If you use the subway to get to Manhattan you will have an additional cost of  Us$ 2,75  plus the metrocard cost of Us$1 making a total of  $7,75. The AirTrain metrocard is different from the subway one. You can’t top up you metrocard to use on the subway later on during you whole stay.

In the vending machines where you buy your AirTrain ticket you CAN’T  buy any of the unlimited metrocards. You can only buy the AirTrain ticket or top up one metroacard(not the one for the AirTrain) in case you have one left from a previous trip.
If you are planning to buy one of the unlimited Metrocards or any other, when you go to the vending machines of the AirTrain, just buy the AirTrain ticket that, with the card service, will cost you Us$ 6. Afterwards, when you get to the subway station you can purchase the unlimited metrocard or the one you like the most. Why? Because otherwise you will be wasting one trip on the AirTrain one knowing you will have this included in your new metrocard. 


How much time will it take me to get to Manhattan with the AirTrain?

From JFK to Midtown Manhattan, Penn Station, until W34th connecting with JAMAICA STATION + line E of the subway : 5o minutes aprox.

From JFK to anything down street 14 connecting with HOWARD BEACH station +line  A of the subway: 60 minutes aprox.

From JFK to Upper Manhattan and anything above W125 street connecting with  JAMAICA STATION +line E of the subway and transfering to line A of the subway:  75 minutes aprox.

From JFK to the south of  Queens and north of Brooklyn connecting with JAMAICA STATION + line J or Z of the subway:  5o minutes aprox.

Are you still with me?

Once you’ve payed for the AirTrain you will be out in this area.


Once you’ve passed this doors you will have to carry straight to an elevator that will take you to the subway station. In this case, line E.

Take the elevator that will take you to subway stations E, J and Z.

Once downstairs.

Here is where you can purchase your unlimited metrocard, pay per ride metrocard, single ride metrocard, whichever you want so to use the subway.


Take the train on the Manhattan side. 

And that is the end of the steps. Kind of long, right? If you follow every detail of this article you will have no trouble in using the AirTrain and getting to Manhattan safe and sound. Do not worry at all. Once you are there you will see how easy it is and how cheaper it is compared to a taxi cab or shuttle service. 


With love, from one traveller to others.


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