Security lines at JFK - how much time to allow?
July 28, 2016 1:54 PM   Subscribe

My daughter has to catch a 9:30 AM flight out of New York's JFK airport tomorrow. Will she be okay if she gets to the airport by 7:30 AM?

I keep reading about long TSA lines, and wonder how much time she will need in the airport to make sure she gets to board her flight. If it matters, her Delta flight will be leaving from Terminal 4.
posted by merejane to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
posted by bq at 1:54 PM on July 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I just flew Delta out of Terminal 4 two weeks ago. If she doesn't have pre-check - I would recommend that she be there up to two hours in advance to be safe. I would also recommend - that if she is checking a bag when she gets to the terminal - to do it curbside.
posted by rdnnyc at 2:04 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Domestic or international? For domestic flights from JFK I usually allow myself 60-90 minutes (45-60 with pre-check) so she should be just fine. International may be cutting it a little closer though.

I also almost never check bags, so that may skew things but but bag check lines never seem all that long compared to security lines.
posted by Itaxpica at 2:15 PM on July 28, 2016

I always scoffed at the extra time instructions. Then a couple of months ago missed a domestic flight from LGA when I'd arrived a full 60 minutes early. The airline wouldn't prioritize me out of standby on their next flight because I had not arrived the recommended 2 hours early. So I now follow the recommended 2 hours early for domestic flights. Worst case: she'll breeze through and spend the extra 30 minutes browsing sweatshirts near the gate.
posted by flourpot at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!

It is a domestic flight (to San Francisco). She does not have pre-check, although now that I am in the process of getting it for myself (interview scheduled!), I am urging everyone I know to apply. :)

I actually don't know if she will check her bag, but if she does, I will recommend that she do it curbside, to get it done at the outset.

So I will recommend she get there two hours early, and hope for the best. Thanks again!
posted by merejane at 3:37 PM on July 28, 2016

It really depends where she's coming from in NYC and if she's taking a car service or train. I would not want to be on a rush hour multi-transfer train situation plus that weird train thing you have to transfer once you get to JFK. Anyway I'd be more worried about getting to the airport then the TSA lines themselves. Also TSA pre is not the end all be all, I wouldn't count on it to be smooth sailing. If you're in a city that does TSA global I'd look at that too.

Oh and if it is a direct flight to SFO and she's taking something other than a budget airline, there will be a hundred flights that day and there's a chance they'll give her another flight for a small fee. I had a stupid status on Delta that was nothing big and they did that for me once.
posted by geoff. at 5:26 PM on July 28, 2016

Global Entry is nice, but it's only relevant for clearing customs re-entering the country on international flights. It makes no difference for domestic flights or departures; it's the same lines as pre-check.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:50 PM on July 28, 2016

I don't find this site particularly useful at JFK (nor do I find the lines particularly bad there), but the TSA Website allows you to get "live" information about waiting times at security screening.

And btw, not relevant to the OP, but Global Entry"is not "only relevant for clearing customs re-entering the country on international flights". If you have Global Entry then you have Precheck too:
Members of Global Entry (along with members of NEXUS and SENTRI), may use TSA PreCheck on all participating airlines by entering their Customs and Border Protection ID number from their Global Entry card into their flight reservation information or into their frequent flyer account under "Known Traveler Number" (KTN).
posted by caek at 4:57 AM on July 29, 2016

Response by poster: Update: all is well!

Geoff., I was also worried about the travel time to the airport. She took the subway -- the A train -- and then the AirTrain. I hoped she would get there a few minutes before 7:30, but it was 7:40 when she got to the terminal.

But she called at 8:02 to say that she had already checked her bag and was through security! She is now at the Shake Shack in Terminal B, not far from her gate. Boarding starts at 8:50, so she is in good shape.

Thanks again, everyone, for the advice and reassurance!
posted by merejane at 5:15 AM on July 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

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