2013-10-17 / Columns

Flying Squirrel

Flying to NYC

Living in Southern California, most of us know our local airports inside and out. While we may have a favorite, we’re also flexible, choosing our departure airport based on flight availability, price, tolerance for crowds and what kind of amenities we seek.

For instance, if you’re flying to Las Vegas or the Bay Area, Burbank is compact, no-nonsense and has easy parking. But if you’ve got a longer-haul flight or you want to relax in a frequent flier lounge, you might choose LAX.

However, when it comes to airports in other parts of the country, many of us aren’t as well-versed. Destinations like Chicago, South Florida, New England and Washington, D.C., are serviced by multiple airports, each with its own advantages.

When you’re talking about regions with multiple airports, the conversation absolutely has to start with New York. I’ve flown to all three main airports: Newark, LaGuardia and JFK. I know what I like about each, but there’s one person whose expertise in this area is unmatched. Fellow travel writer Johnny Jet flies 175,000 miles a year, visiting more than 20 countries.

His website, JohnnyJet.com, is a great resource for travel advice and info, with the Los Angeles Times calling it “one of the top 10 essential travel resources on the Internet.”

I recently posed some questions to Johnny about his opinions and preferences when it comes to flying into New York.

Flying Squirrel: My first Big Apple question: Most of the legacy airlines fly nonstop to both Newark and JFK. Do you prefer one over another?

Johnny Jet: I usually fly LAX to JFK, since they have so many flights a day to choose from. But both Newark and JFK are about the same distance to Manhattan.

FS: What about LaGuardia? Under what circumstances is it beneficial to fly there?

JJ: It’s closer, there’s less traffi c, and it has cheaper taxis ($25 to $37 to midtown).

FS: How do the amenities at LaGuardia compare to JFK and Newark?

JJ: LaGuardia is the worst of the three in terms of amenities. JFK has some nice terminals and Newark has one nice terminal (United’s).

FS: If you’re flying into New York, you might like to see some sights—starting with your arrival. Is one side of the plane generally better than another, view-wise?

JJ: Usually the left side for all three airports.

FS: Practically every airline flies to New York. Do you have a favorite?

JJ: I usually fly American, Delta or United since I have elite status in their mileage programs. If I didn’t care about points, I would probably choose Virgin America or Jet Blue.

FS: Between those two carriers, are there any significant differences to make you choose one over the other?

JJ: Virgin America has better entertainment systems but Jet Blue has more legroom and gives a free check bag.

FS: What about an airline like Southwest, which entails a connection. Are there any connecting airports you might avoid?

JJ: If I’m flying from L.A. I always choose the nonstop even if it’s more money since you greatly minimize your chances for a delay and lost bag. But if you had to connect, I would avoid Chicago (Midway) in the winter and late afternoons in the summer.

FS: OK, so you’ve arrived in New York. What’s the fastest way to get to midtown?

JJ: From JFK I take a car service. Just call (212) 666-6666 or (212) 777-7777 since it’s the same price as a taxi ($52 plus tolls) without the long wait. But if it’s during traffic hours I will take the Air Train to Jamaica Station, then the E train into Manhattan. It takes an hour and costs just $7.50. But it’s best without a lot of bags.

For LaGuardia, I take a taxi or take the M60 Bus to 125th Street and get on the subway for a free transfer (total cost $2.50). But don’t do it at night or with a lot of bags. As for Newark, I take the Newark Airport Shuttle ($15) to GCT, Bryant Park or Penn Station. Or I take the New Jersey transit train.

FS: Final advice. If you had a “Definitely do!” or “Definitely avoid!” what might it be?

JJ: Avoid flying out of those airports in the late afternoon. When you return back to L.A. go early in the day.

So there you have it, straight from Mr. Jet.

If New York is in your future, perhaps for a Broadway show, a fall colors trip or the holiday shopping season, hopefully you’ve got a better sense of which New York airport should be your first bite into the Big Apple.

Thor Challgren is a travel consultant who lives in Thousand Oaks. He can be reached at www.loveyourvacation.com or (805) 499-8784. Email questions to thor@theacorn.com.

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