Guide: How to Pick Someone up From the Airport

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Picking up a loved one from the airport can be hectic, especially if it is your first time arriving at a large airport. Luckily you can get most of the information you need regarding arrival time, parking spots, and terminal locations online or by checking the airport’s website or calling the airport’s customer service line.

In this article, we’ll tell you what to expect when picking someone up from the airport and how to make this task as quick and easy as possible.

Quick Guide: How to Pick Someone Up From the Airport

  1. Check the airport website’s “arrivals” section to find out when they’re expected to arrive, if there are any delays, and at which airport terminal they’ll arrive. This information is usually updated very frequently, so you can get accurate arrival times.
  2. Plan your arrival at the airport 10-20 minutes after landing (or 20-30 minutes if the person has checked luggage).
  3. When in the airport, go to the “arrivals” section in the correct terminal and wait for your friend. The airport usually has several screens inside showing which airplanes have already landed, which ones are delayed, and which ones are currently landing, so keep an eye on that.
  4. If you’re picking them up with a car, leave your car in general parking (usually, the first 15-30 minutes are free).
  5. If the parking isn’t free, you can wait 10-20 minutes away from the airport and ask the person to text you when they’ve landed. You can arrange to pick them up at the curb right after exiting the airport.

In-Detail Guide

You Can Meet Someone at the Airport Gate Only in Some Airports

Many airports these days have entirely banned people from welcoming passengers at the airport gate. The reasoning is simple – to reduce any potential dangers. To get to the airport gate, everyone needs to go through security first, and they’ll let through only people with valid airline tickets. If this is the case, then you’ll need to wait at the arrivals section of the airport, which anyone can enter.

That said, some airports now allow you to wait for your loved ones at the airport gate after getting a tourist/escort gate pass, like Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Tampa International Airport, Bishop International airport, and others. You can claim this pass online at least 24 hours before arriving at the airport or from a designated stand once you get to the airport. Make sure to purchase your pass as fast as possible because they are usually a limited number of passes to avoid overcrowding the gates.

For example, South West Airlines provides escort passes to people who want to pick up a minor (age 5-11), a disabled passenger, or a family member arriving from the army. But there are some airports that allow picking up anyone.

How to Know How Long After Landing a Person Will Exit the Airport

There is no straightforward formula to knowing how long it will take for someone to exit the airport. But you can get a rough estimate depending on various factors, like:

  • Does the person have check-in luggage or not?: If they traveled without check-in luggage (only a carry-on), they usually would take 10-20 minutes to exit the airport after landing. If they have check-in luggage, it will take approximately 20-40 minutes to exit the airport. That is because they would also have to go to baggage claim to find their luggage and pass through customs.
  • Visa Process: If the person needs a visa upon arrival to exit the airport, they will have to pass through immigration to get it, which could add 5-30 minutes, depending on how many people are waiting in the queues.
  • Difference between domestic and international flights: If the person is on a domestic flight, it usually takes less time (10-20 minutes) to exit the airport because they don’t have to go through customs and immigration. If they are exiting from an international flight, they must pass through customs and immigration before exiting, which could take extra 10-30 minutes.

Where Exactly in the Airport Do You Need to Go When Picking Someone Up

You should always check with the airport’s customer service or website to find where to pick up a passenger. This is because every airport dedicates different terminals and gates to passengers exiting the airport. Larger airports usually have different exit terminals for planes arriving from different destinations simultaneously. Therefore, make sure you know your person’s terminal and park your car at the designated car lots in the terminal.

After arriving at the correct terminal, enter the airport and look for signs pointing to “arrivals”. This is an area that’s accessible to anyone, and where the arriving person will be exiting after going through baggage claims and customs & immigration. It usually has several screens to show current information on arriving flights, a bathroom, and a seated waiting area, so you can wait there as long as you need. Finally, you just need to wait for the arriving person to enter the “arrivals” section.

Where to Park Your Car When Picking Someone up From the Airport

There are designated parking spots for drivers who wish to pick up someone from the airport. These parking lots are usually conveniently located close to the exit gate. Most commonly, each airport has several different parking available, like express, general, and long-term, depending on how close they are to the airports. Express will be the closest one, followed by general, and finally long-term. To pick someone up, you need to use express or general parking.

Airport parking usually isn’t cheap, so it isn’t advised to arrive too early. For instance, Brussels airport charges 3 Euros for the first half hour of parking and the next half hours increase to 5 euros. Express parking is usually the most expensive per hour, followed by general, and lastly, long-term. Usually, airports offer free parking for the first 15-30 minutes, so you can take advantage of that.

If you don’t plan on exiting your vehicle and just want to pick up your loved one, you can wait until they are outside the airport and have them wait for you by the curb. Ensure the passenger is out and waiting for you because parking at the curb is not allowed, and you have a few minutes to pick up the passenger and drive off.

If you want to avoid the high parking fees and the passenger you are picking is only carrying a carry-on, you can park in free or cheaper car lots usually located further from the exit gate and wait for them there.

Bonus tip: The Travelpro Maxlite 5 is our top pick if you want compact and sturdy carry-on luggage. This is perfect if you are a minimalist traveler and don’t want to go through long baggage claim queues.

Some Items That You Should Bring When Picking Someone up From the Airport

  • Snacks: Your loved one might not have eaten in hours during the flight (airplane food is not always delicious), so bringing them a snack is a good idea.
  • Water: It’s usually very expensive on planes, so be sure to bring a bottle of water.
  • Escort pass/ gate pass: Don’t forget your escort pass if you want to meet someone at the airport gate.
  • A sign: If you’re picking someone up from arrivals, preparing a sign would be a cool way to welcome them and make it much easier for them to spot you at the crowded exit gate.

Picking Someone up From the Airport During the Pandemic

The world’s reality has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the aviation sector has been one of the most affected sectors. Almost all rules starting from traveling requirements to visitor rules have changed. Now that the pandemic is under control in most parts of the world, some airports have started to allow guests to pick up or drop passengers off at the airport. But some airports still don’t let people without valid airline tickets enter the airport. To avoid inconveniences, always check the airport’s website to find out their rules on picking someone up from the airport.

Final Words

The best way to avoid the hassle of finding a parking space or finding your loved one at the exit gate is to do a short research and figure out how to navigate the terminals and parking lots before driving to the airport. It’s also worth checking out what are the parking fees for each parking (express, general, long-term), and finding out how far are they from arrivals. Also, remember that you should get to the airport 10-20 minutes before they land for a domestic flight and 20-40 minutes before international flights.

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