Aviation in the New York metropolitan area

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An Air India Boeing 747-400 arrives at JFK, with El Al Israel and Swiss International jets at Terminal 4 in 2004. JFK is the largest entry point for international arrivals to the United States.

The New York metropolitan area has the busiest airport system in the United States and the second busiest in the world after London. It is also the most frequently used port of entry and departure for international flights. In 2011, more than 104 million passengers used the airports under the auspices of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ).[1][2] The number increased to 117 million in 2014.[3]

The metro area is served by three major airports, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA), which have been operated by the Port Authority since 1947.[4] The International Air Transport Association airport code (IATA code) "NYC" is reserved to refer to these three airports. JFK and Newark are connected to regional rail systems by AirTrain JFK and AirTrain Newark respectively.

The class B airspace used by the three airports is extremely congested. Despite caps placed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) limiting the number of flights per hour, they rank among the top five in the United States for delays.[5][6] In 2012, travel guide Frommer's rated three terminals in the region as the worst in the world: JFK Terminal 3, Newark Terminal B and LGA's US Airways terminal. It rated Terminal 5 at JFK as the best in the U.S.[7][8] The metro area airports also ranked low in 2017 consumer surveys.[9]

In addition to JFK, EWR, and LGA, there are satellite or reliever airports in the metro area which provide additional commercial air carrier service, albeit on a much smaller scale,[10] as well as numerous general aviation airports, heliports, and seaplane bases.


Teterboro Airport is the oldest operating airport in the New York metropolitan area. Walter C. Teter (1863–1929) acquired the property in 1917.[11] While other localities had municipal airports, New York City itself had a multitude of private airfields, and thus did not see the need for a municipal airport until the late 1920s.[12][13] Flushing Airport opened in 1927, quickly becoming the city's busiest airport; it closed in 1984.[14] Newark Liberty International Airport opened in 1928.[15] It was followed by Floyd Bennett Field in 1930; New York City's first municipal airport, it was built largely in response to the growth of commercial aviation after World War I.[16] LaGuardia Airport was opened in 1939,[17] and Floyd Bennett Field was closed for general aviation two years later.[18] John F. Kennedy International Airport opened as Idlewild Airport in 1948.[19]

The Cradle of Aviation Museum, the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey, and Newark Metropolitan Airport Buildings all preserve the history of aviation in the New York metro area.


The vast majority of airspace above the metropolitan area is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and split into complex sectors which organize the flow of inbound and outbound flights to and from the area's many airports, as well as transitory air traffic between neighboring regions.

Regulations are in effect in the airspace where flight is permitted under visual flight rules (VFR), the East River VFR corridor and the Hudson River VFR corridor. The southern end of both begins at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The corridor along the Hudson River allows VFR flight along the entire length between Manhattan and the New Jersey Hudson Waterfront north to the Alpine Tower, while that along the East River ends southwest of LGA airspace at the northern end of Roosevelt Island.[22][23]

As of 2014, about 1% of flights to the Port Authority-controlled airports use the Next Generation Air Transportation System, which relies on the Global Positioning System instead of radar.[24]

Major commercial airports[edit]

John F. Kennedy International Airport[edit]

Location of the three largest airports in the area:
1) John F. Kennedy
2) LaGuardia
3) Newark Liberty

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is the major entry point for international arrivals in the United States, and it is the largest international air freight gateway in the nation by value of shipments.[25] Sections of the airport have been a foreign trade zone since 1984.[26][27] About 100 airlines from more than 50 countries operate flights to JFK. The JFK–London Heathrow route is the leading U.S. international airport pair with over 2.9 million passengers in 2000.[28] Other top international destinations from JFK are Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, Incheon International Airport in Seoul, Barajas Airport in Madrid, Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Cibao International Airport in Santiago de los Caballeros, Las Américas International Airport in Santo Domingo, Frankfurt Airport in Frankfurt, Narita and Tokyo International Airports in Tokyo, Changi Airport in Singapore, and Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo.[28] The airport is located along Jamaica Bay near Howard Beach, Queens. The elevated AirTrain JFK people mover system connects JFK to the New York City Subway and the Long Island Rail Road.

Newark Liberty International Airport[edit]

Opened in 1928, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is considered the first major commercial airport in North America. Amelia Earhart dedicated the Newark Metropolitan Airport Administration Building in 1935. It is the fifth busiest international air gateway.[29] and the busiest in the region in number of flights. In 2003, Newark became the terminus of the world's longest non-stop scheduled airline route, Continental's service to Hong Kong. In 2004, Singapore Airlines broke Continental's record by starting direct 18-hour flights to Singapore. The airport is located in Newark, New Jersey, about 12 miles (19 km) west of downtown Manhattan. The top three international destinations from Newark are London, Toronto and Tel Aviv.[30] It connects to NJ Transit commuter trains and Amtrak intercity trains via the AirTrain Newark monorail. In 2022, the International Air Transport Association removed Newark from the NYC city code.[31]

LaGuardia Airport[edit]

LaGuardia Airport (LGA), the smallest of the New York area's primary airports, handles domestic air service and flights to Canada. It is named for Fiorello H. La Guardia, the city's Depression-era mayor known as a reformist and strong supporter of the New Deal. The airport is located in northern Queens, about 6 miles (9.7 km) from downtown Manhattan.

In 1984, a "perimeter rule" was introduced to reduce congestion, which prohibits incoming and outgoing flights that exceed 1,500 miles (2,400 km) except on Saturdays, when the ban is lifted, and to Denver, Colorado, which has a grandfathered exemption. As a result, most transcontinental and international flights use JFK and Newark (although there are short-haul international flights to the Canadian cities of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa).[32]

Plans were announced in July 2015 to entirely rebuild LaGuardia Airport itself in a multibillion-dollar project to replace its aging facilities, and this project would accommodate a new AirTrain LaGuardia connection.[33][34][35]

Other commercial airports[edit]

Long Island MacArthur Airport[edit]

Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP), otherwise known as Islip Airport, is located in Ronkonkoma, New York, in Suffolk County, about 44 miles (71 km) east of Manhattan. It is owned and operated by the Town of Islip, and has been designated by the FAA an official New York airport. This airport is primarily served by low-cost carriers Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Breeze Airways to destinations mostly in the southeast.[36]

Stewart International Airport[edit]

Stewart International Airport (SWF) is located about 60 miles (97 km) northwest of the city in Orange County, New York. In 2007, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took control of operations at Stewart and has committed $500 million to its upgrade and expansion.[37] From June 2017 to September 2019 Stewart was the only secondary airport in the New York metro area offering flights to Europe. This was enabled by a main runway of over 11,000 feet.

Trenton–Mercer Airport[edit]

Trenton–Mercer Airport (TTN) is located in and owned by Mercer County, New Jersey, near Trenton. It began to see a return of scheduled passenger service in 2013, becoming a focus city for Frontier Airlines, servicing 9 nonstop destinations.[38]

Westchester County Airport[edit]

Westchester County Airport (HPN) is located in and owned by Westchester County, New York, about 33 miles (53 km) north of the city, along the border with Connecticut. It sees service to a dozen destinations, and has seen increases of nearly 100,000 enplanements in the period from 2008 to 2010.[39][40]

General aviation airports[edit]

Republic Airport[edit]

Republic Airport (FRG) is a general aviation reliever airport located in East Farmingdale, Long Island, on the border of Nassau and Suffolk counties. It is the busiest general aviation airport in the New York Metropolitan region, primarily serving Long Island and is owned by the New York State Department of Transportation, who contracts its operation to a third-party. The airport is about 28 miles (45 km) from midtown Manhattan.

Teterboro Airport[edit]

Teterboro Airport (TEB) is a general aviation reliever airport located in the Boroughs of Teterboro, Moonachie, and Hasbrouck Heights in Bergen County, New Jersey. It is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who contracts its operation to a third-party company. The airport is 12 miles (19 km) from midtown Manhattan in the New Jersey Meadowlands, which makes it very popular for private and corporate aircraft.

Additional general aviation airports[edit]

In addition, there are many smaller general aviation airports, as well as several seaplane bases in the port district and the adjoining region. Among them are:


There are numerous heliports located around the New York metro area. Three of the busiest are located in Manhattan:

  • Downtown Manhattan Heliport (JRB), located at the eastern end of Wall Street on Pier 6, on the East River, was the first heliport in the United States to be certified for scheduled passenger helicopter service by the FAA. The heliport was the normal landing spot for US Presidents visiting New York. The soundproof terminal contains gift shops, administrative offices, a VIP lounge and general passenger waiting area, as well as X-ray and bomb-detection machines at a security checkpoint.
  • East 34th Street Heliport, which consists of a terminal building and fuel filling station and averages 20,000 take-offs and landings each year.
  • West 30th Street Heliport opened on September 26, 1956. In December of that year, New York Airways began scheduled passenger flights, the first airline flights to Manhattan.[41]

In the late 1960s and again for a short period in the late 1970s, a heliport operated from the roof of the Pan Am Building in midtown Manhattan, before a fatal accident caused it to close.


Seaplane bases in the New York metropolitan area include:

From 1934 to the mid-1980s, Wall Street Skyport served as a seaplane base that was primarily used by suburban commuters working in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. Since 2015, New Jersey has largely prohibited the use of seaplanes on navigable waters.[42]

Capacity and delays[edit]

An average of 40% of passenger aircraft delays in the U.S. originated in the New York metropolitan area, some in the area and others due to cascading effects.[43] One-third of aircraft in the national airspace system move through the New York area at some point during a typical day.[44] The three major airports rank among the worst airports for delays the USA despite FAA caps limiting the number of takeoffs and landings per hour to 83 at both JFK and EWR and 71 at LGA.[45] While an increased demand for passengers and freight is foreseen limited land availability in the heavily urbanized area and prohibitive costs constrict expansion of JFK, EWR, and LGA. Approaches to mitigate delays and increase capacity include costly runway expansion projects and greater use of reliever airports. Before the establishment of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in 1960 the PANYNJ had proposed to build an airport at the location in Morris County, New Jersey but was widely opposed. Studies conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Regional Plan Association, the PANYNJ, and others have identified few sites within the region which would satisfy the requirements for a major airport and evaluated potential dispersion of flights to outlying commercial airports, including Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE), Bradley International Airport (BDL), and Tweed New Haven Regional Airport (HVN).[46][47][48] In July 2013, the PANYNJ took control of ACY.[49]

Defunct airports[edit]

The first municipal airport in New York City was Floyd Bennett Field, developed to lure business away from Newark, but it was ultimately unsuccessful as a general aviation airport and became a Naval Air Station in 1941.[18] It is now part of Gateway National Recreation Area. The New York City Police Department leases facilities for their helicopter operations from the National Park Service.

Flushing Airport was another early airport in New York City. It opened in 1927 and was the busiest airport in New York for a time. A decade later it was overshadowed by the larger LaGuardia Airport located nearby. The airport was decommissioned in 1984 after a fatal accident in 1977.[14] Now the area is wetlands owned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

Holmes Airport existed in the Jackson Heights section of Queens from 1929 until 1940. It was put out of business by competition from the new LaGuardia Airport, nearby. Naval Air Station Rockaway near Fort Tilden and Miller Field on the South Shore of Staten Island were military airfields facing Lower New York Bay. Rockaway was active in the 1920s, and Miller from 1921 until 1969. Both are part of Gateway National Recreation Area.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Non Stop Service (PDF) (Report). PANYNJ. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 27, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  2. ^ Air Traffic Report 2011 (PDF) (Report). PANYNJ. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  3. ^ "Local airport traffic hits record high". Crain's New York Business. January 27, 2015.
  4. ^ "Schedules of Charges for Air Terminals New Jersey Airports: Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport" (PDF). PANYNJ. October 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2013. Under the terms of agreements with the City of New York, dated April 17, 1947, and with the City of Newark, dated October 22, 1947, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is responsible for the improvement, development, operation and maintenance of LaGuardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.
  5. ^ Higgs, Larry (March 2, 2018). "Newark Airport just set two records. One stinks for travelers". NJ.com.
  6. ^ Strunsky, Steve (May 12, 2015). "Which area airport ranked last in the nation in on-time performance?". NJ.com. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  7. ^ Stoller, Gary (January 16, 2012). "Travel guide ranks best, worst airport terminals". USA Today. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  8. ^ Kim, Susanna (January 18, 2012). "Frommers' 10 Worst Airport Terminals in the World". ABCNews. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  9. ^ Higgs, Larry (October 3, 2017). "The sorry state of our local airports laid bare by travelers". NJ Advance Media. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  10. ^ Berger, Joseph (December 31, 2009). "An Invitation to Fly Local". The New York Times. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  11. ^ Levin, Jay (April 2, 2015). "The Name-Dropper: Teterboro Airport and the Bendix Diner". NorthJersey.com. Archived from the original on March 10, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  12. ^ Blakemore, Porter R.; Linck, Dana C. (May 1981). "Historic Structure Report: Floyd Bennett Field ; Gateway National Recreation Area, New Jersey-New York" (PDF). 1. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service: 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 11, 2014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ Davies, R.E.G. (1964). A history of the world's airlines. Oxford University Press. pp. 39–55.
  14. ^ a b "1977". The Queens Spin. Queens Tribune. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
  15. ^ Belson, Ken (July 10, 2008). "Newark Liberty International Airport (NJ)". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "Byrd Dedicates Bennett Air Field" (PDF). The New York Times. June 27, 1930. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  17. ^ "150,000 TO SEE NORTH BEACH OPENING FETE: Dedication Of Airport Tomorrow Is Hailed As Boon To Queens". Long Island Star-Journal. Fultonhistory.com. October 14, 1939. p. 2. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Floyd Bennett Field Turned Over to Navy" (PDF). The New York Times. May 26, 1941. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  19. ^ "IDLEWILD AIRPORT OFFICIALLY OPENED; Six Foreign Flag Carriers and Two Others Will Not Begin Operations for a Week". The New York Times. July 1, 1948. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  20. ^ New York area aviation chart (VFR Terminal Area Chart) (high-resolution TIFF, ~31 MB)
  21. ^ Hudson, Edward (July 21, 1963). "Air-Traffic Control Is Moved to Suffolk" (PDF). The New York Times. pp. 1, 46. Retrieved December 6, 2023.
  22. ^ "New York Class B Airspace Hudson River and East River Exclusion Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA)" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. November 2009. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  23. ^ "New York Special Flight Rules Area for Flight Below Class B Airspace" (PDF). Schodack Aviation. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  24. ^ Strunsky, Steve (July 29, 2014). "Satellite tracking used on just 1% of NYC-area flights, IG report says". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved August 5, 2014.
  25. ^ Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. Department of Transportation (2004). "America's Freight Transportation Gateways" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2007.
  26. ^ "U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones". Import Administration. International Trade Administration. January 13, 2013. Archived from the original on January 13, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  27. ^ Tiefenbrun, Susan (2012), Tax Free Trade Zones Of The World And In The United States, Edward Elgar Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84980-243-7
  28. ^ a b Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. Department of Transportation (2002). "U.S. International Travel and Transportation Trends, BTS02-03" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 2, 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2007.
  29. ^ "Table 10: Top 20 U.S. Gateways for Nonstop International Air Travel: 1990, 1995, and 2000". U.S. International Travel and Transportation Trends, BTS02-03. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. Department of Transportation. 2002. Archived from the original on October 2, 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2007.
  30. ^ "U.S.-International Passenger Raw Data for Calendar Year 2014". Transportation.gov. July 6, 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  31. ^ Waldek, Stefanie (September 22, 2022). "Newark Airport Will No Longer Be Considered an NYC Hub — What That Means for Travelers". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
  32. ^ "Long Distance at LaGuardia". The New York Sun. August 5, 2005. Archived from the original on September 7, 2005. Retrieved February 18, 2007.
  33. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (July 27, 2015). "La Guardia Airport to Be Overhauled by 2021, Cuomo and Biden Say". The New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  34. ^ Durkin, Erin (January 20, 2015). "Andrew Cuomo announces $450M plan to build AirTrain connecting LaGuardia Airport to the subway". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  35. ^ Honan, Katie (January 20, 2015). "Cuomo Announces AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport from Subway, LIRR". DNAinfo. Archived from the original on January 20, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  36. ^ "Long Island MacArthur Airport". Town of Islip. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  37. ^ "History". Stewart International Airport. PANYNJ. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  38. ^ Painter, Kristen Leigh (January 29, 2013). "Frontier Airlines' shifting market strategy avoids competition". The Denver Post. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  39. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.
  40. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011.
  41. ^ "Heliport to Open Sept. 26". New York Times. August 27, 1956. Retrieved August 25, 2009.
  42. ^ Maag, Christopher (June 29, 2015). "N.J. A Wet Blanket for Seaplanes". The Record. ProQuest 1691588471.
  43. ^ GAO report, p. 10
  44. ^ GAO-08-934T, Statement of Susan Fleming, Director Physical Infrastructure Issues, in Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senate. "NATIONAL AIRSPACE SYSTEM: DOT and FAA Actions Will Likely Have a Limited Effect on Reducing Delays during Summer 2008 Travel Season. July 15, 2008
  45. ^ "FAA limits at Newark, N.Y. airports have not curbed delays, need to be adjusted, U.S. report shows". The Star-Ledger. November 2, 2010. Retrieved January 16, 2012. Newark and Kennedy takeoffs and landings are limited to 81 an hour from 6 a.m. to 10:59 p.m. daily; LaGuardia flights are restricted to 71 hourly from 6 a.m. to 9:59 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 9:59 p.m. on Sunday. The FAA placed the cap on LaGuardia in 2001 after letting carriers exceed limits the previous year that had been in place since 1968. The FAA extended the LaGuardia cap in 2006 and in 2009 lowered it to 71 from 75.
  46. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (January 27, 2012). "To Expand, Airports May Need Radical Alterations, Report Says". The New York Times. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  47. ^ Zupan, Jeffrey M.; Brone, Richard E.; Lee, Matthew H. (January 2011), Upgrading to World Class The Future of the New York Region's Airports (PDF), Regional Plan Association, archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015
  48. ^ "FAA Regional Air Service Demand Study Summary Report". Federal Aviation Administration. May 2007. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  49. ^ Bogdan, Jennifer (July 2, 2013). "Atlantic City Airport taken over by Port Authority". Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved November 15, 2013.

External links[edit]