Changing airlines at JFK
January 4, 2011 6:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm a bit of a travel noob, so be gentle :) Flying in February on JetBlue from Syracuse to JFK, then taking a Virgin Atlantic flight to LAX for five days. My problem is that I should arrive at JFK around 7:45am, and my Virgin Atlantic flight is scheduled to leave at 9:05am. How screwed am I if I decide to go with one piece of baggage along with my carryon and laptop bag and hope not to miss the flight. Should I just pack well and go with the carryon?
posted by Kevmath to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total)
Hrrrm. My luggage has transferred properly at JFK, even between airlines, with much less available time (we're talking ten to fifteen minutes, thanks to delays). That being said, there's no harm in being proactive and just taking a carryon.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:52 AM on January 4, 2011

Best answer: I've flown on over 20 flights in the last year, seven or eight times out of LAX.

Pack well and go with the carry-on luggage.

Think of it this way - that's a close connection, and it's likely that your flight will be late. You'll be paying to have that extra bag - which is like paying for a boat-anchor, slowing you down throughout your travel process. You can save that $20-30 *and* get to your destination faster *and* with less stress *and* have the extra $$ to buy yourself the extra pair of pants, book, or whatever didn't fit in your carry-on luggage.
posted by fake at 6:53 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's plenty of time for the airlines to make the switch. Most layovers are around an hour.
posted by something something at 6:54 AM on January 4, 2011

I'm not sure I understand the question. With domestic flights, I've always had baggage checked through to my final destination. A bit of googling seems to confirm this. Is there any reason your situation would be different? :)
posted by yaymukund at 6:56 AM on January 4, 2011

Luggage can transfer in less time if checked through, but in this case you will have two tickets, and will have to pick up the bag at baggage claim and recheck it. Not to mention going through security again, which you will probably have to do anyway.

I'd go carryon only.
posted by Nothing at 6:56 AM on January 4, 2011

Note to the people talking about the airlines handling the baggage transfer: this is generally only the case if the flights are on the same itinerary.

Also, Virgin America is terminal 4 and jet blue is terminal 5, so going through security again will be required.
posted by Nothing at 7:01 AM on January 4, 2011

I've never had to pick up luggage and re-check it: it has always shown up at the final destination on its own.
posted by sarling at 7:02 AM on January 4, 2011

Response by poster: I'd have to go through security again even if I was just with a carryon?
posted by Kevmath at 7:02 AM on January 4, 2011

OP - the unclarity here is whether you'll be able to have JetBlue transfer your bag to your Virgin flight. If yes, no problem checking. But if no, you really don't have enough time - you'd have to get off your first leg, wait for your bag at baggage claim (which is outside security), re-check it onto your Virgin flight, go through security, and board your next leg.

I don't know whether airlines will transfer bags to other airlines. Never tried it and I kind of doubted it until reading this previous question.
posted by lakeroon at 7:09 AM on January 4, 2011

Regarding the baggage: It might be possible not to have to pick it up, but again, since these are separate itineraries, Jet Blue will have no idea that the final destination isn't JFK. However, at checking with Jet Blue, they may be able to check it through if you give them the booking code for the Virgin America flight. But I would not count on them being set up to do that.

And yes, you will have to go through security again regardless.
posted by Nothing at 7:10 AM on January 4, 2011

Here is a link from flyertalk about a JFK terminal 4 to terminal 5 transfer. As they say, you're going to have to go through security again regardless. (Done this myself a few times too.)
posted by Nothing at 7:15 AM on January 4, 2011

Response by poster: Looking it up on JetBlue's site, they do not have any interlining agreements.

Thanks for the answers so far, they've been very helpful.
posted by Kevmath at 7:26 AM on January 4, 2011

A warning - You're cutting it pretty thin. JFK is an extremely large airport.

What you'll be facing:

* Getting off the JetBlue flight.
* Walking through the terminal to the exit, getting to the AirTrain station at Terminal 4.
* Taking the AirTrain to Terminal 5.
* Checking in to your VA flight.
* Going through security
* Getting to your gate.

The travel alone is at least a 20 minute process, perhaps 30. Security at JFK is pretty fast, but that's always an unknown (if it's tight, make sure the VA reps know that you've got a 9:05 flight).

The risk is your JetBlue flight getting delayed - you're banking on the plane arriving at 7:45. If there's any delay here, you'll be chewing on the seatback in front of you to alleviate the stress, and ready to hurdle over everyone when the very....slow...deplaning...process...starts...

Don't check anything in - it will add at least 15 minutes (if you're lucky) to the process. You can't afford the delay.
posted by swngnmonk at 8:38 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

JetBlue is a stand alone operator. You would have to wait for your checked bag and re-check, etc. It's a nightmare. Don't do it.

Pack well. Carry on. You'll be much happier. I've done weeks at a time in a carry on and never missed a beat.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:58 AM on January 4, 2011

It's not that tight a connection (you'll have more than half an hour between arriving at JFK and the time your flight to LA begins boarding), and I see no reason it would be likely for your flight to be late. I fly several times a year and have come in on maybe 2 late flights in the last 5+ years.

Also, Jet Blue does not charge a fee for one checked bag - look into what Virgin America's policies are, but no, it may not be a clear cut instance of saving on a fee.

The travel alone is at least a 20 minute process, perhaps 30.

I just came in at JFK on a Jet Blue flight last night. From plane to Howard Beach subway station was under half an hour, and I had to retrieve checked luggage, change clothes (winter clothes were packed into my checked luggage), and wait much longer for the AirTrain than someone just transiting between terminals would have to. I would put the OP's travel time at 10 minutes, with another 10 needed for security. Which still puts OP at the gate for the VA flight before said flight even begins pre-boarding.
posted by Sara C. at 9:59 AM on January 4, 2011

If you decide not to check any baggage, make sure to check into your Virgin Atlantic flight and print your boarding pass before you depart from Syracuse. That will save you some time at JFK.
posted by muddgirl at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2011

if you can afford to go with just the carry-on that is always the best option.

Having said that, flights from SYR-JFK routinely come in ahead of scheduled arrival - assuming no weather related delays. Even so, waiting for your bags to come out at JFK and then making the terminal transfer plus check-in at virgin and security would be cutting it extremely close.

Not sure if this helps, but if you have your flights booked, and you cannot go with just a carry-on - then it`ll be a mad dash. be prepared. Have your boarding pass for LAX printed out, inform the gate personnel etc.,
posted by cusecase at 10:23 AM on January 4, 2011

Some tips on packing lighter:

I'm so much happier now traveling since I started packing lighter and only doing carry on. I've done six week trips with a carry on rolling bag and a tote bag (that fits under the seat in front of me). I use something similar to this Eagle Creek bag as my carry on, and it fits two of these packing cubes plus shoes, jackets, whatever. Together with this Eagle Creek tote, I can fit more than enough for an extended stay.

Before I started using that system, I would travel with a giant beast of a suitcase, stuffed to the brim with tons of clothing and shoes (3/4 of which I would never wear). Then I went to a retreat for my husband's company in Hawaii, dragging my giant suitcase for a 4-day trip, and was totally embarrassed seeing how light all of my husband's female colleagues packed (they are all seasoned business travelers). After reading threads on packing lighter in AskMe, I bought my current luggage. So, now I pack smarter and more thoughtfully and traveling is so much easier.
posted by JenMarie at 10:36 AM on January 4, 2011

Best answer: Even if you carry on your luggage this is going to be close, and there are still two places you can save time: getting off the JetBlue flight, and getting from terminal 5 to terminal 4.

You can lose many minutes once the doors are open waiting for people ahead of you on the plane to get their bags down and get off the plane. You want to be the first person off, so you want to be the last person on. Use the JetBlue Web site to reserve the available seat farthest forward, but wait in the terminal in Syracuse until the last person boards, then walk on the plane, put your bag in the first overhead, and sit in the first empty seat — ideally, the first "bulkhead" row. It's not your assigned seat, but no-one cares very much as long as it isn't someone else's seat, which it isn't since everyone's on board already.

Now when the plane lands and the door opens you can grab your bag and walk right off. Your problem once off the plane is that JetBlue at JFK is now at their new Terminal 5, which is gorgeous but still uses the AirTrain stop at Terminal 6 and has a LONG walkway — you're actually walking almost as far to get to the AirTrain as you would in the other direction to get to Terminal 4! — so just do that! Ignore the "AirTrain" and "Ground Transportation" signs, walk all the way left past the baggage chutes, leave Terminal 5, and walk to Terminal 4. There are no clearly marked footpaths, but it's only 1000 feet or so. You'll arrive at the departing level, just go upstairs and find security.

If you don't want to try walking, then do be careful getting on the AirTrain back at T6: you want the inside "All Terminals" track that goes clockwise around the airport, which is on your left when you come down the escalator — if you get on the wrong side you'll be leaving the airport!
posted by nicwolff at 10:52 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ooh, good advice from cusecase too: print your boarding passes out at home and skip the check-in machine at terminal 4.
posted by nicwolff at 10:54 AM on January 4, 2011

wait in the terminal in Syracuse until the last person boards, then walk on the plane, put your bag in the first overhead, and sit in the first empty seat

But don't you run the risk of over-head space running out for roller-bags, and then having it checked? I never fly JetBlue but this happens on other airlines I've flown.
posted by JenMarie at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2011

Yeah, it seems better to try to board early, snag a bin near the front, and then come up with some excuse to move forward after take-off. But at that point, the stress doesn't seem worth it to me.
posted by muddgirl at 11:14 AM on January 4, 2011

There is no way you want to be the last person on-board. That creates an excellent chance that there is either no room in the overhead or only room at the very back of the plane and you will have to wait until everyone clears out ahead of you. JetBlue, as noted above, is one of a very few airlines that doesn't do interline agreements, so you really want to get everything in one carry-on sized bag. Try to reserve a seat as far forward as you can and absolutely check-in online for all flights in advance. Assuming that your JetBlue flight is not very late, you should be fine, every changing terminals and going through security again. I've done it far less time many times.

The bad thing about doing what you did (buying two completely separate tickets) is that if your first flight sporks, Virgin is under no obligation to help you. If you get to the airport late and don't make your flight, they would be well within their rights to charge you a change fee and whatever the difference is between the current walk-up fare and the fare you paid. Usually if you are polite and pitiful, they will take care of you, but they are under no obligation whatsoever to do so.

As a side note, are you NVG Kevmath or are there two of you?
posted by Lame_username at 12:52 PM on January 4, 2011

Response by poster: That is me.
posted by Kevmath at 2:32 PM on January 4, 2011

Wait, wait - Virgin America or Virgin Atlantic?
posted by mdonley at 2:38 PM on January 4, 2011

Response by poster: Virgin America, oops.
posted by Kevmath at 2:41 PM on January 4, 2011

don't you run the risk of over-head space running out

On the 6 AM flight? Anyway, in my experience — commuting on JetBlue to Portland, Maine for 2 years — the attendants keep the first overhead closed during boarding, for their own use and for last-minute moves. That's actually another advantage of boarding last.

Kevmath, note that JetBlue says that 10% of the time, this flight is more than 14 minutes late on arrival, and 7% of the time it's more than 30 minutes late:

SYR-JFK Flt #1133
90.0% on-time arrival
6.7% with arrival delay of more than 30 minutes

posted by nicwolff at 3:55 PM on January 4, 2011

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