Updated: Nov 13, 2020
9th largest airport in the US. Biggest airport in NYC. It's a bummer that you have to leave security clearance to change terminals at JFK. Waste of time.
Terminal 1 - International (mostly Asia)
Departing from here is a nightmare. Arriving is pretty decent.
Terminal 1 (International)
Current Grade: D+ departure, A- arrival (June 2018)
Terminal 1 was built in the 90s, looks like it was built in the 80s, and gave the airport capacity for larger aircraft to meet the needs of Lufthansa, AirFrance, Korean Air and Japan Airlines. The security setup is one of the worst I've ever seen - it's confusing and crowded and people are yelling at you and it's not immediately clear that it actually IS secure. (I'm sure it is, TSA, it just isn't very CLEAR.) Security earns an F.
Amenities get a D. There are hardly any. It's a dingy terminal. However, the international vibes are always fun and welcome. + one letter. D+
Arrivals are much better. Processing for customs is 72x clearer than processing for security. Customs is fairly efficient. Water fountain wasn't functional. - half a letter. A-.
T2 - The old new Delta Terminal, but it's really just nonsense with a few iPads.
Current Grade: B (July 2018)
Remember when airline terminals started doing that millennial thing where you order food on an iPad and someone brings it to you, and you don't even have to talk? Yeah, I know, it's ideal. Rows upon rows of iPads, and no one interacting. Travel bliss.
Ok but really -- in here there's a coffee shop that used to be pretty great in 2014 but no one has updated, and now they run out of things all the time and tell you to go to "the other coffee shop" which is, depressingly, a WENDY'S.
The future was here, but now it's the past. Womp.
T4 - Terminal 4 - International Terminal (mostly Europe)
My favorite terminal in the New York City area. Full of international travel romance and there's a Shake Shack.
T4 (All the fun international airlines, plus Delta.)
Current Grade: A (March 2020)
T4 was the new cool kid when it opened in 2013, and listen, it's still great seven years in.
First, the amenities: There's a hipster food hall and you can sometimes get real vegetables there. I sat and ate pho that was not terrible while the sun was gently setting before a redeye to London for my first European vacation as a grown adult. Or walk a little further and turn left and there's a Shake Shack right there.
Bathrooms & pet relief rooms scattered throughout. One time I helped a guy with his puppy in one of them (the story is below, that was June 2019). It was a delight.
I had some of the best customer experience of my life and a freaking HUDSON NEWS. There's also real shopping and my husband bought a Brooks Brothers blazer when we were en route to Italy. This is the kind of travel romance we've been promised!
Arrivals and customs can get really crowded -- it's a massive international terminal, after all -- but there are murals on the wall that kept me entertained, and there's natural light (unlike arrivals in Terminal 8). Plus the cab lines are INSIDE and right there - I don't think I've ever waited more than 5 minutes for a cab from this terminal which is TRULY saying something. If you know you know.
Sometimes I can even fly Delta to Vancouver outta this international joint.
Can you believe I'm describing an airport terminal experience as "delightful?"
Average Grade: A
A (March 2020): Departure with a side of oh-what-you-didn't-know-about-COVID
A (Aug 2019): Departures
A (May 2018): Departures
Terminal 7 - Wish I could get into that British Airways Lounge.
Terminal 7 (Alaska Airlines, British Airways)
Grade: B- (April 2019)
It's fine. It's the kind of terminal that makes you want to get into the airline lounge, because there's nothing else for you here but a Dunkin that will make you wait a long time, and some shops pretending to be high-end shopping but really are just a snooze.
Terminal 8 - American Airlines with a dash of the international community
Not the best terminal at JFK, but not the worst. Also, the biggest. You'll be fine.
Terminal 8 (American Airlines, plus AA partners Cathay Pacific, Ethiopian Airlines, Finnair, Quatar Airways, Royal Jordanian)
American Airlines, arrival/connection
Current Grade: A- (June 2018)
Fun fact: Terminal 8, the American Airlines JFK terminal, is the biggest terminal and is twice the size of Madison Square Garden. Also fun fact, there are allegedly a history of American Airlines logos between security and the concourses. I've only arrived here so I've never seen them. But I would almost book an American flight out of JFK just to go feel the Mad Men era American Airlines feels and check out the history.
Except I despise American Airlines so I haven't done that in two years, we'll see.
Good security setup, good amenities. There's also customs & border protection in this terminal -- it can be cramped but it's efficient in an average kind of way and feels like "welcome to New York" in like… the 90s and I kinda like that vibe.
Walk a little further into the terminal for craft beer bars (which we enjoyed with friends while practicing basic Croatian phrases - zivjeli!), pizza & wine, etc.