JFK to La Guardia Connection Time
March 28, 2011 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Is three hours enough time to change planes between between JFK and La Guardia?

I would be landing at JFK at 6:40 am coming off an international flight. The flight I'm considering taking (because I have frequent flier miles I'm trying to use) leaves La Guardia at 9:45 am. I have no problem paying to take a cab. My biggest concern is getting through customs. I don't know yet whether I'll be checking luggage. Is this doable or total craziness? Has anyone gone through customs at JFK recently? How long did it take? It's been quite a few years since I have, but I remember it taking quite some time, but this was also not too long after 9/11.
posted by whoaali to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Totally fine, if you're not checking luggage. If you ARE checking luggage, I actually still think you're okay, although you're at the mercy of the airline having your luggage and getting it out in a timely manner.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:08 AM on March 28, 2011

I think that sounds like total craziness. You need to be to LaGuardia by 8:45 a.m., at the latest, to get your bags on the flight, which gives you 2 hours to land at JFK (might be late!), go through customs, and get to LaGuardia. Sounds like it could be pushing it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:09 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

That's pretty razor thin. You're assuming that your flight will be on time, and that there won't be any lines in Homeland Security coming in, or TSA going back out at LGA. If this is on a weekday there's probably no way.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2011

Definitely pushing it. IF your flight isn't late, and IF you get through customs without a hitch and no line, and IF your baggage is off the plane in a timely fashion and IF there is no traffic, then yes, you would make it in time for your flight. But that's a lot of IFs.
posted by Grither at 10:11 AM on March 28, 2011

Keep in mind that even with a cab, the time you are arriving is dead in the middle of morning rush hour traffic.

Especially coming in from an international flight, you may be delayed by any number of things. I wouldn't risk missing your next flight.

If you do decide to take the flight, absolutely check no luggage.
posted by amicamentis at 10:14 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Customs + Van Wyck at rush hour? No fucking way.
posted by JPD at 10:15 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

ETA: To answer your customs question - at JFK it is very much a terminal and time specific question.
posted by JPD at 10:17 AM on March 28, 2011

Oh, I assumed you meant a weekend... is it a weekend?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:18 AM on March 28, 2011

My biggest concern is getting through customs.

As it should be. It's even more unpredictable than NYC traffic. Depends on the time, the terminal, and the composition of the flights coming in.

I've done JFK-LGA (after a re-routing) with about 2.5hrs layover, despite the evening traffic, pouring rain and ending up at the wrong terminal -- a very lovely United supervisor took pity on us and got us checked in and to the gate.

That was a while ago, though: my last experience of CBP (in Atlanta) was marked by a long wait, even in the citizen/LPR line, and I'm going with "pushing it".
posted by holgate at 10:19 AM on March 28, 2011

I made it through customs terminal 7 in the mid afternoon in about ten minutes. But as JPD mentions, this depends on a lot of variables.
posted by Nothing at 10:20 AM on March 28, 2011

Another reason not to check luggage - I have been outside of the time window (40 minutes to an hour pre-flight) and denied both luggage check and boarding at LaGuardia. There isn't a lot of flexibility there.
posted by amicamentis at 10:22 AM on March 28, 2011

JFK is a crapshoot when it comes to getting through Immigration. I've waited two hours in line, and other times I've been through in ten minutes. Time of day seems to make no difference - it depends on whether a number of flights have landed simultaneously creating a bottleneck.

LaGuardia is a commuter airport and I've usually found long lines at the TSA checkpoints at that time of day.

If you're flying in on a Sunday it may be a different story. I'd also recommend you bring just carry-on, as retrieving and re-checking bags will take an amount of time that can't be estimated, being dependent on variables.
posted by essexjan at 10:23 AM on March 28, 2011

Alright, I'm convinced. That and I realized spending an extra $200 means I can take a direct flight from JFK home and I'll get home 6.5 hours earlier than if I take the free flight. Given that I will have been flying for over 20 hours at that point, I'll probably be thanking myself that I did sign up for two more flights with long layovers...
posted by whoaali at 10:25 AM on March 28, 2011

Good choice - I went through JFK customs about a week ago, and it used up all of my 3-hour layover. I almost missed my next flight.
posted by quadrilaterals at 12:13 PM on March 28, 2011

Sounds like you've decided on the saner option.

FWIW, I would chime in that if you are on a totally separate airline, delays on the incoming international flight would NOT get you automatically protected on your itinerary out of LGA, which means that your itinerary can get REALLY screwed up if you mis-connect.

On the other hand, depending on flight loads and your elite status (and individual airline practices), seasoned travelers sometimes risk a mis-connect and standby for a later flight, banking on being able to clear standby. (Elite status can give you priority on the standby list and eliminate fees, depending on the airline; without status, this cuold be really dicey.) Because you would be arriving in the morning, assuming you are headed towards a reasonably popular destination, there might be decent standby availability, which might make this a not-insane gamble if the benefit is big enough.

Really, it's about weighing the benefit of the more complicated itinerary against the cost of the direct flight (and the risk of mis-connecting). Sounds like your benefit (using miles) is really small, which leads to the direct flight being the sane choice.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 12:49 PM on March 28, 2011

Good choice - I went through JFK customs about a week ago, and it used up all of my 3-hour layover. I almost missed my next flight.

Ouch, I would be flying on a different airline, but still within the star alliance (what good that will do me who knows, United has never been good to me, but it's my best option). I'll have a two hour lay over, hopefully that will be enough. I'm definitely leaning towards carrying on, but given that I'll be gone for over two weeks, that may just not be practical, especially with souvenirs and such coming back.
posted by whoaali at 1:23 PM on March 28, 2011

I just went through JFK on Monday, and it took me a good 30 minutes just to get my luggage, and that was after a very fast trip through customs (due to most of the plane being non-citizens).
posted by smackfu at 8:08 AM on April 7, 2011

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