EWR, 5:30 a.m.

I don’t fly out of Newark very often, but it seems to me like the usability gap between EWR and JFK has really narrowed. Even up until a few years ago, getting to and around JFK was a complete nightmare. And once you got there, you were met with horrible service and scary, dilapidated facilities. There’s nothing like coming back to New York exhausted on a red-eye, only to be sneered at by the girl at TCBY because you’re taking more than a millisecond to decide between toppings.

For poor people like myself, getting to JFK used to mean taking the A to Howard Beach and changing to the free (but frustrating) shuttle bus for the terminals. You remember that bus, don’t you? It had only two speeds: zero m.p.h. and 75 m.p.h. – on two wheels. One moment you’d by zooming across long-term parking sideswiping cars, the next moment you’d be stuck in traffic on the loop road wondering if you’d be sleeping on the floor of terminal 9 because you missed your flight. It was just the thing to put you in the mood for a 14 hour coach seat to Tokyo, in the last row of non-smoking seats next to the smoking section.

Now instead of the bus you take AirTrain, which is fast and clean (though the seats are getting a bit worn), which lets you save all your travel stress so you can spend it at the TSA checkpoint instead. Sure, the ride to the terminals is now $5 instead of free, but even in my penny-pinching opinion, it’s worth it. In any case, it certainly seems like a better deal than the cramped and bouncy $5 ride on AirTrain EWR.

Newark is still a really easy airport to get to and around, so I’m certainly not knocking it. It’s just that JFK has finally gotten within striking distance of being the premier NYC airport that it’s supposed to be.

Now if they can only work on the TCBY…

(Newark Liberty International Airport, NJ)