Instead of meeting someone at arrivals, like you normally would, you’d like to meet them as soon they land – at their gate of arrival. Maybe the person who’s arriving needs assistance or you just want to surprise them.
Whatever the reason, in this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know – whether meeting someone at the airport gate is possible, what’s an airport gate pass, what’s an escort pass, can you meet someone during a layover, can you leave the airport during a layover, and more.
Can You Meet Someone at the Airport Gate Instead of at Arrivals or Baggage Claim?
It is possible to meet someone at the airport gate but only with a valid airport gate pass or escort pass. A few airports will issue an airport gate pass to anyone who wants to go through to the airport terminals. However, most airports don’t offer gate passes and instead issue escort passes, which only allow accompanying people in special circumstances, such as minors and people with special needs.
Without a pass, you’ll just have to wait at arrivals like everyone else. Usually, the arriving passenger has to go through customs and baggage claims before stepping through to arrivals. If you’ll be waiting for someone at the arrivals, realistically they’ll take about 15-30 minutes to get there after landing.
If, however, you’re arriving at the same airport together with someone else and you’re both on different flights, you can indeed wait for them at the arrival gate without a pass. Just be sure to pick up your checked bag first because it might get stolen if not picked up or handed over to the unclaimed baggage desk.
What Is an Escort Pass and Who Can Get One?
An escort pass, also known as a special assistance pass is a document that allows you to enter the airport terminals without a valid airline ticket. An escort pass will let you accompany someone to their gate of departure. That said, you’ll still have to go through the security, just like any other passenger. The same rules apply there, which means you aren’t allowed to bring liquids, sharp objects, and other dangerous goods.
However, an escort pass isn’t given out to anyone. Escort passes are usually handed out only for accompanying children, the elderly, people with special needs, and military service members. These passes are usually issued by the airline, and each one has a slightly different policy to who and how it’s handed out. So make sure to read up on the rules for each individual airline before applying for one.
What Is an Airport Gate Pass and Who Can Get One?
Recently, some airports have started allowing regular tourists inside without airline tickets and without escort passes. For instance, in the US, anyone can meet someone at the gate in Pittsburgh, Tampa, Detroit, Seattle, and New Orleans airports. This trend started only recently and the list of Airports that are open for “tourism” is increasing every year.
Airport gate passes are usually handed out by the airports, not airlines. Some will let you apply for one when you arrive at the airport and others will require you to fill out a form and get accepted before arriving. Once you do get accepted, you’ll have to go through security just like anyone else and you won’t be allowed to bring any dangerous goods.
How Do You Request an Airport Gate or Escort Pass?
To get an escort pass, you’ll have to reach out to the airline and explain why you need to accompany someone to the gate. Remember to mention that the person that you’ll be accompanying is a minor, an elderly, a disabled person, or military personnel. Do this at least 48 hours before the flight. If you can’t get one, ask for a wheelchair attendant.
To get an Airport Gate Pass, you need to reach out to the airport, not the airline. Only a few airports hand out gate passes and the process for applying is different for each one. Usually, you’ll have to apply for one online before arriving at the airport.
How to Know Where a Person Will Arrive at an Airport?
To understand where someone is arriving at the airport, you need to check the arrivals. You can usually do that by checking the website of that airport. They’ll have a list of arriving flights with the flight origin, destination, airline, arrival time, and arrival terminal. To meet someone, you need to go to the specified terminal, go to Arrivals, and the arriving person should be there 15-30 minutes after landing. If the flight is delayed, the arrivals section on the website or the airport itself will show that on the timetable.
Usually, airports don’t show at which gate each flight is arriving, and only show the terminal. So if you manage to get an airport gate pass or an assistance pass, you’ll have to ask at which gate each flight is arriving yourself. Just call the airport directly or ask at the information desk inside the airport.
Can You Meet Someone at an Airport During a Layover?
If you want to meet someone inside an airport during a layover, that person will have to get an airport gate pass or an escort pass to get inside the airport. Airports usually don’t let anyone inside without a good reason due to security concerns – either that person is flying somewhere or is there to accompany someone who needs special assistance to or from their flight.
That said, some airports within the US (Pittsburgh, Tampa, Detroit, Seattle, and New Orleans) now allow non-traveling persons inside by issuing a temporary gate pass. If the person you’re meeting gets one, they’ll have to go through security to get inside the airport terminals.
Can You Leave the Airport During a Layover to Meet Someone?
If you want to meet someone during a layover, usually, it’s a smarter idea to do that outside of the airport. You’re allowed to leave the airport during a layover but you have to make sure that the layover is long enough. Usually, the layover needs to be at least 4-5 hours to meet someone for 30-60 minutes outside the airport.
When you arrive at the layover destination, you’ll have to go through customs and immigration to get to arrivals. If you have checked luggage that isn’t automatically transferred to your next flight, you need to grab that first. Your friend can wait for you at the arrivals and this process usually takes 15-30 minutes but may sometimes extend to 60 minutes with some delays.
You can then leave the airport and meet someone but you have to make sure to arrive at least two hours before your connecting flight. That’s because you’ll have to go through security and check-in (if you have checked luggage that wasn’t automatically transferred) again, just like you did on your first flight. So realistically, the layover needs to be at least 4 hours long to meet someone, preferably 5-7 hours.
However, in order to leave the airport, you’ll need a visa and any other documents required by the country where the layover takes place. Some countries even don’t allow people to leave the airport during layovers, so make sure to read up on the rules before doing that. This depends on your citizenship and the layover country.
During the pandemic, the situation is even stricter. Most countries require negative tests, filled-in forms, and the lines in the airports can take much longer than usual. So if you’ll be traveling during the pandemic, meeting someone during a layover might be too much of a hassle.
Tip: If you’ll be meeting someone during a layover, try traveling only with a carry-on and a personal item. That way you won’t have to recheck your checked luggage and lug around additional gear. A really solid option is the Travelpro Maxlite 5 international carry-on. I’ve traveled with it for a long time and never had any issues – it still looks brand new.
Meeting someone at the airport gate is possible but requires either an airport gate pass or an escort pass. If you’ll be meeting someone who needs assistance (minors, elderly, disabled people, military personnel), you should be able to do that. But if you just want to meet a friend or a business associate, you’re out of luck if you aren’t meeting them at the few select airports that hand out airport gate passes. Instead, you’ll have to meet them at the gate.