Airports are some of the busiest locations on the entire planet. Thousands and thousands of people pass through them on a daily basis and on average you’re probably looking at over a thousand individual flights from a particularly busy airport.
Just as an example of this, London’s Heathrow airport, which is generally considered to be one of, if not the busiest airport in the world, saw an average of over 200,000 daily passengers in 2018.
For reference, that’s about half of the entire population of the state of Wyoming, all passing through the same single location on the same day. As you can imagine and as you have no doubt experienced, that makes airports pretty stressful.
Trying to make your flight by navigating your way through a complex, labyrinthine series of gates and hallways amid such a mass of equally stressed out travellers can be a nightmare. And sometimes getting out after your flight can be a nightmare too.
This will all be made so much worse by those who don’t practice good airport pickup etiquette. Imagine getting off a twelve-hour flight, you’re tired and hungry and your whole body aches, and all you want is to get to your hotel and sleep, but there’s chaos in the pickup area.
There are cars fighting for control of the space, horns are blaring, crowds of people are getting exponentially larger on the curb waiting for their own ride and you’re out to join that maelstrom of bodies and noise.
You don’t want to be in that position, and you don’t want to put anyone else in that position right? If we all had a little bit of empathy about the situation, we would familiarize ourselves with some airport pickup etiquette. So let’s take a look at what that would entail:
Never Linger at the Curb
Let’s just think back to that number that I mentioned earlier about Heathrow airport. 200,000 passengers. Now obviously, not every single one of them is going to be getting picked from the airport by a friend or family member, and those who are won’t all be getting picked up at the same time.
But still, when the number is that high in a single 24-hour period, there are going to be dozens and dozens of people at the one time and usually airports only have one pickup spot. This might seem like an issue from the airport’s end, but one is all you need if people use it properly.
The reason why this can get so congested, so quickly is because people don’t plan ahead and planning ahead is essential. The pickup spot needs to run like clockwork, you need to get in, pick up your passenger and get out so the space is free for someone else.
This approach applies to you if you are an Uber or Lyft driver too. Obviously you have less communication with the person you are picking up ahead of time, but these new transport services are having a serious impact on airport pickup areas so it’s important to get out quick.
The best course of action is for you to ensure that you are never sitting at the curb for more than five minutes, and never, ever park there. You need to coordinate this with the person you’re picking up. Get them to call you when they’re ready to be picked up.
Tell them to wait until they are actually at the pickup spot before calling and then you can stop at the curb. This is the quickest way because then you will only be stopped for a matter of seconds.
In the meantime, what you should do is circle the terminal. Don’t park somewhere because then you’re just slowing things down and leaving your passenger to add to the gathering mass on the curb, just drive around until they call you.
Terminals and their adjacent roads are designed to accommodate for this exact practice and it is the ideal way to ensure you don’t contribute to any congestion. This brings me to my next point:
Drive Slow and Be Alert
I know that it’s difficult to think about much more than just picking up your friend or family member when they need you, but no matter how stressful and how difficult it is, you need to stay alert.
When you have this many people crowded around the one spot and you’re in a car, the likelihood of an accident is increased. In any case, whoever causes the accident, one of the important things is to be covered by an insurance and to stay calm and polite. Knowing what to do in a situation like this will make the situation more manageable and less stressful. Even if it’s not your fault, the accidents can happen to anyone, no one likes them or makes them on purpose. In addition to that, they’re quite disturbing.
What you need to remember is that the people out there are just as stressed as you. People get impatient after being on a plane for so long and want to get their vacation started or get back home and so sometimes they aren’t as careful as they should be. You are likely to get people haphazardly walking or running out in front of cars.
There’s also the fact that tourists will be coming from countries which may have different attitudes towards road safety and how you should behave in busy environments than the norm in your country.
So just drive slowly and carefully when you’re circling the terminal and when you’re stopping at the curb. This shouldn’t be too frustrating because in most cases it won’t take long to get around the terminal so going slow won’t be a huge issue.
Consider Avoiding the Curb Altogether
One surefire way to make sure that you aren’t adding to the madness, would be to just stay away from the pickup spot. Take a different approach. Airports usually have both short and long-term parking, and quite a lot of it.
You could just park and then head inside the terminal and wait for the person you’re picking up. It’s so much easier. You don’t need to do as much coordination with the other person, you can stroll in and out at your own pace and you don’t have to be in any way a part of the mess.
Or even from the perspective of the passenger, you could just drive yourself to the airport and not have to get anyone to pick you up when you come back. That puts you entirely in control of the situation and it will cost a little extra but could be worth it for you.
Just another incentive to have your own car. It makes life so much easier in this regard and in so many others so why not look into it if you don’t already have one? Shop around on some major car sites like Edmunds, AutoTrader or Find the Best Car Price and see what you find.
Regardless of what you do, this part of the vacation will be stressful on some level. But we all contribute to making it even more so when we don’t work on our pickup etiquette.