Can You Pick Up at Departures?

Can You Pick Up at Departures?

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You’re on your way to the airport to pick someone up and in a hurry. The arrivals area is crowded.

A simple logical guess would be to question the possibility of picking up at the departures.

Well, in this article, we’ll guide you through the do’s and don’ts of airport pickups.

Can You Pick Up at Departures?

Airports are designed with specific areas for arrivals and departures.

Arrivals areas are meant for picking up passengers, while departures are set up for dropping off. But, rules can vary from one airport to another.

In some airports, you might find signs that say ‘No Stopping’ or ‘No Waiting’ at departures. This is to keep traffic moving smoothly.

And for some airports like Tampa International, Vehicles may pull up to the Departures area in front of the Main Terminal only when actively unloading passengers.

Now, what about the idea of picking someone up at the departures?

The rationale here is “sometimes the arrivals area is just too crowded. It’s packed with cars and people, making it hard to find a spot to stop.

Departures might be less busy, especially if you’re picking someone up at a time when not many flights are leaving.”

Well, firstly, it’s not advisable. It’s against the rules of most airports.

If actively caught, you may get a ticket or have to pay a fine.

But then it’s actually possible to do this.

An 11 year old reddit comment on how picking up at the departure is done
An 11 year old Reddit comment on how this is done

However, you’ll need to be quick.

Airport security is strict about cars waiting for too long at departures.

If you decide to pick up here, make sure your friend is ready to hop in as soon as you pull up.

This isn’t the place to wait for them if they’re still grabbing their bags or saying goodbye to someone inside.

Special Cases

Sometimes, there are special cases like:

  1. Large Airports: In big airports, the rules can be stricter. Always check their website.
  2. International Flights: International arrivals may have different rules, especially regarding customs and immigration.

How to Make Your Pick-Up Smooth

1. Check Flight Details

Keeping track of the flight you’re meeting is crucial for a timely pickup.

Before heading to the airport, double-check the flight number and the expected arrival time. It’s common for flights to arrive earlier or get delayed.

You don’t want to wait too long or arrive late.

Use the airport’s website or a reliable flight tracking app to get real-time updates.

These apps can notify you of any changes in flight status, like delays or early arrivals.

Also, pay attention to which terminal the flight is arriving at, as large airports may have multiple terminals for different airlines.

Staying informed about the flight status means you can adjust your arrival time at the airport, ensuring you’re there just when needed, not hours early or too late.

2. Understand the Airport Layout:

Familiarizing yourself with the airport layout is essential for a hassle-free pickup.

Airports can be large and complex, with separate areas for arrivals and departures, often spread across multiple levels or terminals.

Before you head out, take a moment to look up the airport map online.

Note the location of key areas like the arrivals hall, parking lots, and any specific pickup zones.

If you’re considering picking up at departures, understand where this area is situated.

Additionally, if you’re at a larger airport, different terminals might serve domestic and international flights, so it’s important to know exactly where you need to be.

This information not only saves you time but also helps you avoid unnecessary stress and confusion upon arrival at the airport.

3. Communicate with the Person You’re Picking Up:

Effective communication with the person you’re picking up is important for a smooth experience.

Before they board their flight, agree on a plan for contacting each other upon their arrival.

Encourage them to text or call you as soon as they land, and again when they’re ready to be picked up.

This real-time communication is invaluable.

It helps you adjust your timing, especially if their flight is early or delayed.

If they’re arriving from an international flight, remind them it might take longer to get through customs.

Knowing their exact location inside the airport, such as the baggage claim area or a specific exit, can also help you determine the best spot for a quick and easy pickup.

This ongoing dialogue ensures you’re both on the same page and minimizes waiting time.

Related: Can You Go to an Airport Just to Eat?

4. Choose a Waiting Spot:

Selecting an appropriate place to wait while your friend or family member arrives is a key step in ensuring a smooth pickup.

Most airports offer designated cell phone lots, where drivers can wait for arriving passengers at no charge.

These lots are typically located close to the terminals but away from the main traffic, allowing you a stress-free waiting area.

Make use of these spaces to avoid circling the airport or incurring parking fees.

Keep an eye on your phone for a call or text from the person you’re picking up, and once they’re ready at the curb, you can head over to the arrivals area.

Utilizing these waiting areas not only saves money but also helps reduce congestion around the airport, making the pickup process more efficient for everyone involved.

Be Ready for Quick Loading:

Preparing your vehicle for a swift loading process is an often overlooked but vital step.

Before arriving at the airport, clear out your trunk or back seat to make room for luggage.

This is especially important if you’re picking up someone who has been on a long trip and might have more bags.

If you’re planning to pick up at the departures area, keep in mind that this zone is typically designed for quick drop-offs, so lingering is usually not allowed.

Having your vehicle organized and ready means you can load the luggage swiftly and move on without causing delays.

This preparation not only helps in adhering to airport regulations but also reduces stress for both you and the person you’re picking up, ensuring a smooth and quick departure from the airport.


Picking someone up at the airport doesn’t have to be a hassle. Knowing whether you can use departures or if you should stick to arrivals can make a big difference. Always remember to check the specific rules of the airport you’re visiting. Safe travels and happy pickups!

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