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Last week, I took the inaugural direct flight from Chattanooga to New York City with several other members of the media.

I’ve already written about what it was like to be in the city around the time of the 9/11 anniversary, about similarities in how Chattanooga and NYC approach economic development, and about how to visit the city without overspending.

But there’s so much more to say. So here we go.

Details about the direct flight 
Seven days a week, the flight leaves from Chattanooga at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Flights returning to Chattanooga leave at noon and 7:15 p.m.

The flight cost starts at about $260, but there are many variables that affect pricing.

The prices constantly fluctuate, and generally, flights are less expensive when you book them far in advance, Blake Poole, vice president of air service and economic development at the Chattanooga Airport Authority, said.

“The less expensive seats in the total inventory are sold first,” he said. “The last-minute bookings and the ones that are booked for weekday travel … have traditionally been the highest fares. That is the typical business fare. Leisure travelers normally stay over a Saturday night, and those fares are normally cheaper. It is a very dynamic pricing system, and it constantly changes—by the minute sometimes.”

Getting from Newark to downtown NYC
The flight technically goes to Newark, New Jersey.

It takes about 45 minutes to get from the airport to New York’s Penn Station in Manhattan, where you can take a cab or the subway to anywhere in the city.

From the airport, we boarded Newark’s AirTrain monorail to get to the Newark Liberty International Airport Station. Then, we got on the New Jersey Transit, which takes you to Penn Station.

I’ve ridden the “L” in Chicago, the London Underground, Atlanta’s MARTA and the Metro in Washington, D.C., but my first time on the subway in NYC was overwhelming.

It was hot and packed. And my initial thoughts were, “Well, I’d never want to do this on a regular basis.”

But I also had no idea where we were going, and by the time we experienced the city and rode the subway back to Newark, I changed my mind.

There was something thrilling about running and catching the subway.

NYC resident Juan Espin, who moved from Knoxville to the city 10 years ago, said that newbies could expect to get lost, especially anyone who comes over the weekend when there are subway changes made for construction or maintenance.

Thankfully, our group had a former New Yorker leading us, so we made it without trouble.

A NJ Transit ticket cost $13, and a single subway ticket costs about $3. So you can get from Newark to Penn Station for less than $20.

After you purchase the NJ Transit ticket, you have to scan it to board the train and then the conductor comes around and checks it manually, so it’s best to remember to keep it easy to access.

Cost comparison—LaGuardia vs. Newark
I called local travel agency Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise (which does more than book cruises) to get a comparison of cost and time depending on whether you fly into LaGuardia or Newark.

An agent there, Randy Van Hooser, told me that people had been blowing up their phones with calls wanting to book the direct flight.

“People are wearing us out,” he said.

Here’s what else I found out from Van Hooser.

A person could leave Chattanooga at 7 a.m., fly to Atlanta and then to LaGuardia for about $353. It would take about four hours.

The nonstop flight from Chattanooga to Newark takes about two hours, and Van Hooser found a round-trip flight for $323.

You could get a lower price from Chattanooga to Newark if you took a “flex time” flight, he also said. He found a flight for $318 if you just took the flight on a certain day but didn’t need to commit to a particular time, he said.

Shuttles both from LaGuardia and Newark cost $17 to get downtown.

Travelers could take a taxi from LaGuardia for $40 for up to four people, he said.

A taxi from Newark would cost at least $50 for two people, he said. So navigating the subway from Newark is the cheaper option.

Local entrepreneur Shelley Prevost recently flew into LaGuardia and shared her experience.

She arrived at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday evening and took a cab that cost $50 to midtown Manhattan. She said it took about 50 minutes, but in her experience, it doesn’t usually take that long.

Her flight cost $355, and she connected in Washington, D.C., on the way there and in Charlotte coming back.

Her layover in each city was about an hour.

“I’m taking a direct flight in October, but I’m a little worried about the trek from Newark,” she said.

She said she’s unsure about navigating the subway.

“The jury is still out for me whether Newark will be worth it,” she said.

Misconceptions about New York City
There are perceptions that New Yorkers are rude and that the city is unsafe.

But Espin said that New Yorkers are more likely to be rude to each other than tourists.

“A good portion of the rudeness is borne of frustration with other New Yorkers and not tourists,” he said via email. “If we see a tourist, we’ll generally cut them some slack … We also like to help tourists who are lost! Yes, it’s true! Ask us and we’ll help because we know it’s a mess sometimes.”

And this appeared to be true. We had several people offer to help us if we looked lost.

I also walked alone by myself at 10 p.m. This is based on an extremely limited experience, and I’m in no way trying to make a sweeping declaration about the city’s safety.

But there were a lot of police and other people out in lower Manhattan. I felt safe.

I noticed so many police around that I stopped and asked them if something was going on or if there was heightened security because it was so close to the anniversary of 9/11.

The officer said, “It’s what we do.”