Airport Cell Phone Lots: Parking and Waiting Zones

A cell phone lot is a designated parking area located near the terminals of an airport. It provides a space for drivers to wait, free of charge, until passengers call to indicate they have retrieved their baggage and are ready for pickup. 

Cell phone lots are designed as waiting zones specifically for people picking up arriving airline passengers. After the passengers land and make their way into the terminal, they can call or text their waiting drivers and coordinate a pickup time and location. Meanwhile, the drivers can relax in the cell phone lot until they get the word that their passengers are ready. This allows for easy airport pickup without needing to circle around repeatedly or pay for pricey short-term parking.

Why Do Airports Have Cell Phone Lots?

Airports provide cell phone lots to improve the airport pickup process for everyone involved. According to the National Parking Association, over 70% of airport parking lots in the United States now have a cell phone waiting area.

Here are some of the key reasons airports offer cell phone lots:

  • Reduce Terminal Congestion: By providing a designated waiting area, airports can cut down on unnecessary traffic near the terminal as drivers circle around repeatedly while waiting for passengers. This helps reduce roadway congestion.
  • Enhance Curbside Management: Airports have very limited curb space directly outside the terminals for passenger pickup. Cell phone lots allow airports to use this curb space more efficiently for active loading only.
  • Improve Safety: Cell phone lots give drivers a safe place to park and wait, without needing to drive around repeatedly or stop along the road. Airport planners emphasize safety and security for these lots. 
  • Provide Customer Convenience: Travelers and those picking them up appreciate the convenience of cell phone lots. Drivers can wait comfortably until their party is ready, then proceed directly to the pickup area without circling or paying for parking.
  • Minimize Waiting Fees: Without a waiting lot, drivers might need to pay for pricey short-term parking while waiting for their passengers. Cell phone lots let them wait free until their party contacts them.

How Do Cell Phone Lots Work?

Using an airport cell phone lot is simple, although policies may vary somewhat by airport. The usual steps are:

  1. Driver arrives at the airport and proceeds directly to the cell phone waiting lot. This lot is well marked with signs from the airport roadways.
  2. Driver parks in the cell phone lot and waits, with their phone turned on. The lot is close to the terminal, but not directly at the terminal.
  3. Passenger lands, disembarks, and collects their baggage once inside the airport. 
  4. Passenger calls or texts the driver and coordinates the pickup location and time. 
  5. Driver proceeds directly from the cell phone lot to the coordinated pickup area. Common pickup locations include curbside outside the terminal or the hourly parking garage.
  6. Driver picks up the passenger and departs the airport.

The entire waiting and pickup process is streamlined, avoiding unnecessary driving, stopping, parking costs, and congestion around the airport terminal area.

Advantages of Using a Cell Phone Lot

Here are some of the major benefits of using an airport’s cell phone waiting lot rather than driving around or paying for short-term parking:

1. Avoids Unnecessary Parking Fees

Sitting in a parking space or garage close to the airport terminal can get very expensive very quickly, with typical rates Being $4-8 per hour. For a 1-2 hour wait, this can add up. Cell phone lots let drivers avoid paying these parking fees altogether. 

According to the International Parking Institute, cell phone lots are typically free for drivers to use while waiting for their parties. As the National Parking Association notes, over 70% of major airport parking lots now offer free cell phone waiting zones.

2. Reduces Traffic Congestion

Excess driving and circling by waiting vehicles can snarl up traffic around an airport terminal. By giving these drivers a designated place to wait, cell phone lots significantly reduce airport curbside traffic congestion and chaos.

Airports Council International estimates that a single cell phone lot can reduce traffic around the terminal by over 1000 vehicles per day. This has a big impact on smoother traffic flow for all airport travelers.

3. Provides a Safe Waiting Area

Rather than double parking along the road or cobbling together a waiting spot, cell phone lots give drivers a designated place to park and wait safely for their passengers. As the International Parking Institute notes, these lots are specifically designed for passenger pickup and are well-lit and monitored. 

Security cameras, emergency call boxes, and a nearby security presence help travelers feel secure while using the cell phone lot. Well-designed lots also reduce waiting drivers’ temptation to illegally stop elsewhere on airport roadways.

4. Allows for Real-Time Flight Tracking

Thanks to flight trackers on mobile apps and websites, drivers can monitor their party’s flight status closely while waiting in the cell phone lot. As soon as the flight lands, the passenger can contact the driver to coordinate pickup.

This allows for a seamless airport pickup and eliminates guesswork about arrival times. Some airports, such as Dallas-Fort Worth International, even have flight displays within the cell phone lot so drivers can monitor arrival info.

Disadvantages of Using a Cell Phone Lot

While cell phone lots offer notable benefits, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider:

1. Limited Amenities

Unlike paid short-term parking facilities, cell phone lots tend to offer minimal amenities. Some lots have restrooms available, but most do not have convenience stores, restaurants or other services onsite. Drivers should come prepared with food, drink, and activities for their wait time.

2. May Be Located Far From the Terminal

To maximize traffic flow, cell phone lots are purposely situated away from the congested terminal area, often via a different airport exit. This greater distance takes more time to reach the passenger pickup area once contacted. Drivers should account for extra driving time.

3. Can Get Crowded During Peak Times

According to the National Parking Association, cell phone lots see heavy usage during busy travel times such as holidays or weekends. During peak periods, the lot may fill up and become harder to navigate. Travelers may prefer using short-term parking at those times.

Rules and Regulations for Using a Cell Phone Lot

Airports post specific rules and restrictions for use of their cell phone waiting area. Key policies often include:

  • Maximum time limits for waiting – Most airports enforce a 1 hour time limit before drivers must depart the lot. This ensures adequate space.
  • No unattended vehicles – Drivers must remain with their vehicles at all times; this is not long-term parking. 
  • No parking in drive lanes or non-space areas to avoid congesting traffic flow. Park only in designated spots.
  • No commercial activity such as taxis/limos soliciting rides within the lot.
  • Following all instructions from signage and from airport staff who monitor the lot.

Travelers should carefully review and follow the posted rules for each airport’s unique cell phone lot. This helps maintain an efficient system for all users.

Airports with Notable Cell Phone Lots

Here are some examples of major airports that offer driver-friendly cell phone lots:

1. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) offers two Cell Phone Waiting Lots for motorists awaiting arriving passengers. These lots permit free waiting for up to two hours. The Original Lot, located at the intersection of 96th Street and Vicksburg Avenue, operates 24/7 and is accessible from several major boulevards. The Secondary Lot, found at 96th Street and Alverstone Avenue, is open from 6 AM to 2 AM. Commercial and ride-service vehicles are prohibited, and vehicles must be attended always. Shuttle service from these lots was discontinued in April 2019, with alternative services available from the LAX City Bus Center.

2. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, located in Atlanta, features designated “Cell Phone Lots” for individuals picking up passengers. In October 2022, the lot was relocated from its position at South Terminal Parkway to a centralized location to better serve both North and South Terminal entrances. Directional signage throughout the airport assists drivers in navigating to the new lot. Access points include Interstate 85 North, I-85 South, and Camp Creek Parkway, each offering specific routes guided by signs towards the Cell Phone Lot.

3. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

The DFW Airport introduced cell phone lots to mitigate road congestion and facilitate individuals collecting passengers. Two lots are accessible: the North Cell Phone Lot, near the North toll plaza, with 53 spaces, and the South Cell Phone Lot, close to the intersection of Rental Car Drive and Southgate Avenue, offering roughly 60 spaces. These lots provide free parking for a maximum of two hours, ensuring a convenient wait at no extra cost. Vehicles must be continually attended and cannot remain overnight.

4. Denver International Airport (DEN)

Located at 7680 N. Wenatchee St., Denver, CO, the Cell Phone Waiting Lot, named “Final Approach,” is situated approximately three miles west of the Jeppesen Terminal at Denver International Airport. Accessible via multiple routes with clear signage, this lot provides a space for individuals to await arriving passengers. Amenities include 253 parking spaces, free Wi-Fi, a lounge area, children’s seating, indoor restrooms, flight information displays, and eateries such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Wendy’s. Visitors can also utilize the adjacent Phillips 66 fueling station. Curbside waiting at the terminal is prohibited, and alternative parking options include Garage and Short Term Parking.

5. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

At JFK Airport, there are dedicated Cell Phone Lots offering free waiting areas for those picking up passengers. Strategically situated near primary airport entrances, these lots are accessible via the Van Wyck and JFK Expressways, ensuring swift access to all terminals. The Van Wyck lot has 373 spaces (GPS: N 40° 39’ 21.7” W 73° 48’ 35.6), while the JFK Expressway lot has 127 spaces (GPS: 40.653956, -73.792104).

These lots enable drivers to await passengers’ arrivals comfortably, facilitating smooth airport traffic. It’s imperative that drivers remain with their vehicles, with roadside waiting or parking strictly prohibited.


With the spread of COVID-19, cell phone lot usage has increased significantly as passengers and drivers aim to avoid unnecessary exposure. Per the latest data from the National Parking Association, cell phone lots have seen a usage increase of 20% during the pandemic as travelers adapt their airport routines.

Airport cell phone lots provide an efficient, safer option for drivers picking up passengers compared to waiting curbside or paying for short-term parking. Their strategic location and amenities make pickup coordination easy. Following airport policies allows these lots to work smoothly for all users. Most major airports now offer this convenient waiting area.