Airport Pickup Etiquette (and the law).

I’m a pretty lucky person.  Because the Home Warrior is a stay at home dad he’s often able to drop me off and pick me up from the 7-28-14-3airport. (Although I don’t know if he feels so lucky!)  Drop offs at the airport always seem to go smoothly. Cars stop, unload, say goodbye, and away they go. Then there are the pickups.  The Home Warrior says one of the most stressful places to drive is in an airport pickup zone.  Pedestrians walk in front of cars without looking and cars cut people off to get to who they are picking up. Not to mention having to time the pickup just perfectly so you don’t have to circle or use a cell phone lot (if your airport is lucky enough to have one).   It’s a recipe for disaster.

Luckily people usually drive pretty slow so potential accidents are averted.  However, there’s one group of people that is not helping the situation.  Not only are they not helping, they’re most likely breaking the law.  I’m talking about the people that choose to park and wait in the pickup area when their person hasn’t come out yet.  I get it if the person you’re there to pick up says they are literally about to walk out the door, but those aren’t the people I’m talking about.  I’m talking about drivers that sit and wait upwards of 15 or 20 minutes.  And to top it off, it’s against the law to wait in the airport pickup area if you’re not mass transportation but I rarely see this law being enforced.  What harm does this cause, you might ask?  Well, besides the terrorism implications it causes unnecessary traffic jams and chaos for the people whose pickups are actually ready.

While every airport is different, nearly all the ones I ever go to have this clogged up chaotic pickup area problem with no one enforcing the “no parking and waiting” policy.  The Home Warrior thinks that pickups should happen in the airports’ long term parking areas.  His idea is to just go park in long term parking and either wait there, or walk to go help the person you are going to pick up with their luggage then take a shuttle back.  This essentially eliminates anything not a mass transportation vehicle in the pickup area.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that.  After traveling all day I don’t want to walk through a huge parking lot to get to my ride (but a shuttle might change my mind).  The way the Home Warrior explained it, we don’t have pickup service after we go grocery shopping, why should we have one at the airport? Makes sense, I guess, but what makes more sense is people not taking advantage of the pickup area when the “no parking and waiting” rule is not being enforced.  Drive in a circle, or wait in a cell phone lot, but otherwise please get out of the way.  You’ll be doing me, the airport, and everyone else who’s actually ready to be picked up a huge favor.

Readers, what do you think? Do people park and wait at your airport?


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  1. Down here in South Florida, they are pretty militant about enforcing the “no stopping/standing” rule at MIA . . . in fact, cops will walk up to you and tell you to move . . . if you don’t IMMEDIATELY move, the ticket book is already out and they start writing the ticket
    FLL is a little more lenient but still enforcement is visible
    Both airports have decently accessible cell phone lots

  2. MEM usually has someone patrolling too. Though since the number of flights here have been cut back so drastically, it’s not a big deal.

  3. One thing I’ve found to be helpful is to pick up on the departures level. Especially since it’s really easy when my pickupee doesn’t have checked luggage. The Law is rarely around getting people to move along and it’s generally not very crowded at the times I like to pickup… of course when my MIL comes to town she brings so much luggage that I do park and go in to help her….


  4. At ATL, they are always patrolling. We do have a cell phone lot and I always take advantage of it when picking up friends, I’m not sure why so many people choose not to.

    A shuttle is not appealing to me, but a train to the cell phone lot would be. There is always the option of parking and walking in to meet and help someone, but the effort (and sometimes cost!) required to schlep across the traffic and lot doesn’t usually seem to be worth it.

  5. LAX is super militant as well. If they ask you to move & you don’t immediately do so they are writing you a ticket.

  6. FLl and PBI are very militant (disagree with other poster on this). I think the real problem are the people who stand and hug and chat – it really needs to be a drive in, pick up routine. I am surprised that airports haven’t figured out a better way to move people, and I really do feel for law enforcement who have to yell at people all day.

  7. I recently had to pick someone up at Paris, Charles de Gaulle T1. There are no pickup zones as a result of chaos [and terrible architecture’ and it’s absolute mayhem. The terminal is this windy, cone shape with 8+ stories — impossible to find your pickup in the long term parking area because those happen to be the top 4 floors. But due to the complete lack of pick up area impossible to just quickly pick someone up as well. Frustration all around. In this day and age, why not provide a pick up zone but equip it with some sort of automatic, electronic surveillance that automatically snaps a pic of your license plate if you occupy the spot for too long.

  8. I hate the chaos of the arrivals curb. I consider the 5 minute walk to the airport garage better quality time over everything that frustrates you in pickup.

    Have you been married so long that there’s no instant gratification in a latch-on hug right outside security exit anymore?

  9. This is one of my pet peeves as well. Though I think some of this is due to drivers wanting to arrive curbside the moment a plane lands, while the pax still has to walk a mile, then collect luggage, etc. which could all take 20+ minutes.

    The consistently strictest I’ve ever seen is IAD. Cops on segways there all the time.

    DAL, DFW and DTW are always one extreme or the other. Constant enforcement patrols one day and then totally lax the next.

    Personally, I use the cell phone lot at DAL. 1 hour terminal-side parking at DFW (so nice!). Try to time it exactly right at DTW. Just circle endlessly at IAD.

  10. If they allowed a half hour free park in a short term parking level, that would ease the pain and congestion

  11. TPA has a cell phone lot with free wifi and a huge arrival board. I wait there until the plane lands and then head over to the short term parking directly above the terminal. It’s so easy to park and ride the elevator down to baggage, pick up your passenger and luggage, and then ride up to your car. It’s free parking for 20-30 minutes and if you go over the time limit, it’s only a couple bucks. It’s so worth it not to be in the mess of the pickup lane.

  12. Oakland had a cell phone area but it fills up at times. I’ve had to circle when this happens, not a big deal. But being on the pickup side is terrible! There is enforcement but less than 25% of the time, so lots of people just pull up and park for 10 – 15 minutes which blocks those of us who have actually followed directions. Then there’s all the smoking in the pickup area clearly marked with numerous “no smoking” signs… I guess some people only follow the rules when authorities are actively enforcing them. Sad state of affairs!

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