Traveler shares airport hack for avoiding long line at pickup after flight

@onegirlwandering/TikTok Gerain0812/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘Come to the departures level’: Traveler shares airport hack for avoiding long line at pickup after flight

'This trick isn't going to work at all airports.'


Eric Webb


Posted on Aug 28, 2023

Extending a travel day just a second longer can feel intolerable after hours of flights, TSA checks and luggage-bound sprints across terminals. One viral TikTok claims to reveal an “airport secret” to cut out a bit of the hassle.

Travel content creator Lindsay Mukaddam (@onegirlwandering) recently posted a video about how to beat the interminable wait to be picked up at the airport. The video has 1 million views and almost 14,000 likes as of Monday

@onegirlwandering I may look like crud after a 20+ hour travel day but at least I don’t have to wait a moment longer to get home #traveltiktok #traveltip #airportlife ♬ original sound – Lindsay | Solo Travel

In the video, Mukaddam talks to the camera while waiting outside Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

“Come to the departures level if the arrivals level is completely slammed with cars, because then the person who’s picking you up can get up here with no issues and they don’t have to wait in line,” Mukaddam says, suitcase in hand and no traffic jams in sight.

The creator turned off comments on the TikTok, but she wrote in the caption, “I may look like crud after a 20+ hour travel day but at least I don’t have to wait a moment longer to get home.”

According to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, you can indeed pick up a passenger on either the upper (arrivals) or lower (departures) levels of the terminal building. 

In an email to the Daily Dot, Lindsay said, “I found out about this hack because the Austin Airport (AUS) actually has signs during busy travel times encouraging travelers to use both levels for pick ups and drop offs.”

She added that not everyone pays attention to that option, “But those who do are rewarded with shorter wait times.”

Be warned, though—unless you’re flying into the 10th largest city in the U.S., this tip might not be applicable.

“This trick isn’t going to work at all airports,” Mukaddam told the Daily Dot, as “some don’t have two levels or separate areas for departures and arrivals. And obviously, if there are any rules or laws at your airport saying to not use this hack, it’s not worth breaking those.”

This isn’t a new hack—a 10-year-old post in Reddit’s r/LifeProTips subreddit also recommends trying a pick-up on an airport’s departures level. But commenters on that post were quick to point out airports where it wouldn’t work, like Nashville International Airport or Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. Some redditors said you could even get a fine for doing so. 

The Daily Dot checked out several major airports’ websites to see if they offered a similar tip—or banned such a move—and most simply say to pick people up in the arrivals zone and drop them off in the departures zone. The trick is OK at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, though. According to its site, “Use the arrivals (lower) level to drop off in the morning and the departures (upper) level to pick up in the evening.”

Most airports put their energy behind cautioning people against idling their cars in the lanes near the terminals, regardless of what section they’re in (and don’t even think about parking in a passenger pick-up or drop-off lane).

“The terminal curb side is for active loading and unloading only. Parking and unattended vehicles are not allowed,” the Austin airport’s website reads, for example. Many airports, including the Austin airport, offer cell phone lots where drivers can wait to hear from their passengers.

So, this tip comes with a caveat—check ahead with the airport to make sure you won’t get into trouble just for trying to be efficient.

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*First Published: Aug 28, 2023, 12:21 pm CDT