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Pick-Ups at JFK Airport - Parking and Driving Tips

How to make easy and quick pick-ups and drop-offs at JFK Airport


Picking-up family or friends at JFK Airport? Dropping them off? Did you draw the short straw? The passenger arrivals and drop-off zones at JFK Airport are typically busy, stressful places for drivers struggling to make a pick-up. Here's how to make the best of it:

Pick-up at JFK - Essentials

Terminal 4 - JFK Airport
Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images
  1. Bring a mobile phone. Make sure the passenger has one, too, and knows to call you when the arriving flight lands. I live 20 minuets from the airport. I don't leave home until that call comes in.
  2. Check the flight arrival or departure times before you head to the airport. You don't want to be stuck waiting at the airport for a delayed flight. (More about JFK arrivals and departures)
  3. Is there plenty of gas in your car? You don't want the engine warning light to flash when you're stuck in a traffic jam at the airport.
  4. Drive like a New Yorker, just be smart about it. Everyone wants to get to a small space. Take turns -- one and one is the unwritten rule -- and let cars enter the lines. Somebody starts honking? Take a deep breath and keep your cool. You'll all get there sooner or later.
  5. Bring a co-pilot. Reading signs while approaching terminals can be confusing. A co-pilot in the front seat goes a long way to an easy pick-up.
  6. Always obey the instructions of police and airport personnel. You don't think you need to move on? Get over it. The last thing you want is to spend time with the NYPD.
  7. Know the way to plane. Find driving directions to JFK or plug in JFK's address to your GPS.
  8. Give yourself plenty of time. For departing passengers, get to the airport at least an hour ahead of time. For arrivals, don't rush it.

Picking-Up or Dropping-Off at JFK, Is It Better to Park or Pull to the Curb?

When Airport Terminal Were Beautiful
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Are you a New Yorker? Making a passenger pick-up at JFK is no big deal if you're used to crowds and congested driving. Just make sure to time it properly because security will not let you wait at the passenger pick-up area directly outside the terminal.

If you're an out-of-towner or have to pick up children or someone in a wheelchair, then it would be better to park in the short-term lot and meet your party in the terminal. Each terminal at JFK Airport has short-tern parking ($3 for 30 minutes).

What About Going to the Flight Gate with a Departing Passenger?

No ticket? You won't be allowed through the security lines at JFK. You can enter the terminal and see your folks off. If the passenger needs help, contact the airline in advance.

Is There a Waiting Area for Cars at JFK Airport?

No. At least there's no official pick-up waiting zone for cars. You're also not allowed to wait at the arrivals curbside. No waiting zone. No place to wait at the terminal. Often cars wait in improvised areas like just over the median line on the approach to JetBlue's terminal 4 or other terminals. Other circle the airport's roads. What's your best option? Don't arrive at the airport until your passenger's flight has arrived.

Is It Easier to Pick up Passengers at the AirTrain?

AirTrain at JFK
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

No, not really, unless you're already at those AirTrain stations in Jamaica or Howard Beach.

How to Get to JFK Airport?

Follow these directions for driving to JFK Airport. Then proceed to the color-coordinated terminal. There are 8 passenger terminals at JFK.

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