Cell Phone Waiting Lot Airport Guide: What You Need to Know [2022]

If you’ve ever showed up a little bit early to the airport to pick someone up, you know that driving around in circles can be a frustrating experience and a huge waste of gas. Instead of doing endless laps around the airport, one better option is to park at the cell phone waiting lot.

But what exactly are these cell phone waiting lots and when should you use them? Do they have any restrictions you should know about?

In this article, I will take a deep dive and give you some factors to consider when pulling up to these lots as well as provide you with details for the cell phone waiting lots for major airports.

What does “cell phone waiting lot” mean?

Cell phone waiting lots are dedicated parking lots at airports where you can usually wait to pick up your passenger(s) free of charge.

The first U.S. airport cell phone lots reportedly opened in 2004 at Los Angeles International (LAX) and Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) and then many airports soon followed.

The original idea was that these lots would be a place for you to wait to receive a call or text message from the passenger you were waiting to pick up since it wasn’t always easy to time your appearance at the arrival pick-up area.

The lots would help reduce congestion along the roadways around and within the airport and also potentially reduce security risks which were a top priority following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But some of these lots have evolved into what are essentially free temporary parking lots with some convenient perks.

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parking lot

Where are the cell phone waiting lots usually located?

The cell phone waiting lots are often located along the normal course of travel when heading towards the arrival area of an airport. They usually are no more than five minutes away from the terminals.

Usually, once you have entered the premises of the airport, you will see signs for the cell phone waiting lot as you approach the terminals. Larger airports may have multiple cell phone waiting lots so you can always look out for multiple lots.

Below, we’ve supplied information that can help you find the cell phone waiting lot for some of the major airports in the US. We also provided some additional information on some of those lots such as hours and facilities, so be sure to check it out!

Cell phone waiting lot

Cell phone waiting lot overview

Facilities

Some cell phone waiting lots will have facilities located at the lot for you to take advantage of.

For example, some may have a restroom or portable toilet on site while others may even have a flight information screen giving you the latest details on arriving flights.

You may also find free Wi-Fi, electric car charging stations, vending machines, and if you’re lucky maybe even food trucks.

Denver really stands out as a fully equipped cell phone waiting lot.

Other times you may only find something like a measly trashcan (which can still be a great opportunity for you to pass the time by cleaning out your vehicle).

As a lot of these lots are located close to the runways, they often can be great places for plane spotting, which is another great way to pass time. Just don’t get too distracted!

Parking limits

Most of these cell phone lots will put a limit on how long you can linger in the parking lot. For example, it’s common to see a limit of about two hours although some airports may have much shorter limits around 30 minutes.

The other major limitation is that you cannot leave your car unattended in these parking lots.

I would imagine that some parking attendants may be pretty lax on the time restrictions but will likely not be very lenient when it comes to leaving your vehicle unattended.

The cell phone waiting lot probably will not be open 24 hours so you may not have access to the lot for very late flights. It’s not uncommon for these lots to remain closed from about midnight to ~5am.

The good news is that is typically when the airport is less busy so you might be able to get away with lingering in the arrivals area longer than usual.

Note: Some cell phone waiting lots may be patrolled heavily by airport police so while you are trying to kill time it’s probably not a good idea to engage in any kind of questionable activity or to have a tailgate party.

If you’re curious about the limits/rules placed on the cell phone lot, you usually can find the rules stated on a sign somewhere near the entrance of the lot. You can also check one of the links below for your given airport.

Rideshares

If you are a rideshare driver for Uber or Lyft or some other service, the cell phone lots are typically off-limits.

Be courteous

People like to relax in these cell phone lots while they wait for their passengers so try to be courteous by not blaring loud music, flashing people with your headlights, etc.

Some of these parking lots may even want you to turn off your engine although that might not always be practical given the weather conditions.

Parking at arrivals

Airports typically do not allow you to park at the arrival area where passengers exit the airport unless the party you’re picking up is in your line of sight.

This is because things would simply become too congested if everybody were allowed to park in this area as long as they wanted. There are also potential security concerns with allowing vehicles to linger around this area for too long.

However, airports enforce their “no parking” rules differently with some being very strict about it and others being more lax.

It also largely depends on when you are arriving as airports tend to be more relaxed during off-peak hours.

Typically, you only want to stop by the arrivals area if the passenger you’re picking up is already in the process of retrieving their luggage and/or on the way out.

If you try to take a spot when the passenger has just turned off airplane mode and touched down at the gate chances are you’ll be waiting a while and airport staff will tell you to get a move on. Sometimes it might even be the police telling you to get going.

Related: Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Check in Online for Flights

Short-term parking

The main alternative to using the cell phone waiting lot is to simply park in the short term parking lot or garage.

Short term parking lots are typically very close to the arrivals area so you should have a manageable or perhaps very short walk to get into the airport (assuming you don’t want to just wait in the car).

The drawback of course is that you will have to pay for your parking.

If you are interested in greeting the passenger when they arrive at baggage claim or perhaps surprising them with some type of welcome, this would be the way to go.

Some airports offer an unofficial free short term parking that many people don’t know about.

For example, they may have a policy where if you are in and out of the parking lot within 15 to 30 minutes you don’t have to pay anything.

A lot of people will struggle to get in and out of a short term parking lot in under 30 minutes if they have plans on actually greeting a passenger in the airport.

Therefore, for those airports that do offer free short-term parking, you might struggle to actually take advantage of that benefit.

Airport hotel parking lots

If the cell phone waiting lot is full and you don’t want to pay for short term parking then consider parking in an airport hotel parking lot.

Major airports should have a lot of hotels nearby and it’s not very difficult to slip in to the parking lot of one of those and find an open spot.

The great thing about doing this is that if you do get bored and want to leave your vehicle you can.

Hotel lobbies can be a great place to pass time in a comfortable fashion. You can grab a bite to eat, lounge around, or just kick back and people watch.

Related: Do You Have to Check Out of Your Hotel?

Hotel parking lot

Airports with cell phone waiting lots

Today, it’s rare to find a major airport without a cell phone waiting lot, and below you can find the details for cell phone waiting lots for major airports in the US.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

  • The North Cell Phone lot is located at the North end of the Airport, directly located before the North toll plaza and has 53 spaces available
  • The South Cell Phone lot is located at the South end of the Airport, adjacent to the intersection of Rental Car Drive and Southgate Avenue and has approximately 60 parking spaces available
  • Limit of 2 hours in both lots
  • Link to parking page

Denver International Airport (DEN)

  • Final Approach is the airport’s cell phone waiting lot located approximately three miles west of the Jeppesen Terminal. It can be easily accessed via eastbound Peña Boulevard to 75th Avenue and northbound Gun Club Road; westbound Peña Boulevard to Wenatchee Street; or from East 78th Avenue. Signs are posted along all access routes
  • 253 parking spaces
  • Indoor restrooms
  • Eight flight information display boards
  • Lounge seating
  • A children’s seating area
  • Free Wi-Fi service in the building
  • Convenient access to the adjacent Phillips 66 fueling station
  • Restaurants at Final Approach
  • Link to parking page

O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

  • Located off North ​Bessie Coleman Drive just North of International Terminal 5
  • Link to parking page

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

  • 24 Hours
  • Limit of 2 hours
  • Located on 96th St just east of Sepulveda Blvd, one-quarter mile west from the 96th Street Bridge entrance into LAX’s passenger terminal area
  • Link to parking page

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

  • The entrance to the Cell Phone Lot is just north of the entrance to Long Term Lot 1
  • Link to parking page

Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)

  • Open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
  • Located on Kitty Hawk Way just North of the Passenger Pickup Curbs at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3
  • Link to parking page

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

  • Three cell phone waiting lots
  • 24 Hours
  • The lots are east of Terminal 4, west of the West Economy Garage, and south of the 44th Street PHX Sky Train® Station
  • Limit of 30 minutes
  • Link to parking page

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

  • Two cell phone waiting lots
  • North Cell Phone Lot is located at 8730 Jeff Fuqua Blvd N. Exit right off Jeff Fuqua Blvd. onto Cargo Road then right again onto the north exit road ramp
  • South Cell Phone Lot is located at 10546 Jeff Fuqua Blvd. S opposite the South APM Station/Garage “C”, next to the South Travel Plaza
  • Link to parking page

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

  • 200 parking spots
  • Located directly across from the S. 170th Street exit of the Airport Expressway
  • Limit of 20 minutes
  • Link to parking page

Miami International Airport (MIA)

  • 60 parking spots
  • Located just off LeJeune Road and NW 31 Street, accessible from LeJeune Road heading North or South
  • Link to parking page

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

  • Two cell phone waiting lots
  • 24 Hours
  • Lot on John F. Kennedy Boulevard located south of IAH rental car center
  • Lot on Will Clayton Parkway (covered) located east of ecopark 2
  • Link to parking page

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

  • Cell Phone Lot located off the Van Wyck Expressway (GPS coordinates N 40° 39’ 21.7” W 73° 48’ 35.6) has more than 373 spaces
  • Cell Phone Lot off of the JFK Expressway (GPS coordinates 40.653956, -73.792104) has 127 spaces
  • Both lots are less than a 5 minute drive to all terminals
  • Link to parking page

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

  • Located just east of Cypress Garage/Rental Car Center
  • Just seconds from terminal area
  • Link to parking page

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

  • Located near the airport’s entrance, adjacent to the P4 Parking garage
  • Less than 5 minutes from all terminals
  • More than 100 parking spots
  • Link to parking page

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

  • Open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
  • Limit of 60 minutes
  • Located at North McDonnell Rd. and San Bruno Ave. just west of the airport
  • Link to parking page

Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)

  • Located approximately halfway between both terminals on Post Road
  • 39 parking spots
  • Link to parking page

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

  • These 3 lots are located at each end of the airport
  • 24 Hours
  • North cell phone lot located off E Service Dr
  • South cell phone lot and DTW Mcnamara cell phone lot are located next to each other off Eureka Rd
  • Link to parking page

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

  • Boston Logan’s cell phone lot is conveniently located at the intersection of Hotel Drive and Service Road
  • The Terminal C Cell Phone lot is conveniently located off of Porter St
  • Both located just west of Terminal E Parking
  • Limit of 30 minutes
  • Link to parking page

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

  • Located west of Terminal Drive, just southeast of the Terminal
  • The airport has an idle-free policy
  • Link to parking page

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)

  • Located on Scott Road just to the right of the Daily Parking Garage entrance
  • Limit of 1 hour
  • Link to parking page

Tampa International Airport (TPA)

  • Located south of the Main Terminal on airport property, across from Economy Parking
  • 5 minuted drive to main terminal
  • Restrooms
  • Vending Machines
  • Free WiFi
  • Real-Time flight information display
  • Link to parking page

San Diego International Airport (SAN)

  • Open from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily
  • Located at the Terminal 2 Parking Lot with access from McCain Road 
  • Limit of 60 minutes
  • 70 parking spots
  • Portable restrooms
  • Cars must be turned off while waiting
  • Link to parking page

Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

  • Located at 61st Street and Cicero Avenue, just south of the main airport entrance
  • 90 parking spots
  • Link to parking page

Final word

Cell phone waiting lots are one of the best inventions from airports over the past decade or two. They offer a convenient and free way for people to wait for passengers that does not contribute to cluttering up the roadways. I recommend taking advantage of them but remaining aware of any of the restrictions and potential perks they may have.

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