Where Can I Wait for my Arriving Passenger? A Brief History of the Cell Phone Lot

Instead of waiting on the shoulder of highway ramps and roads leading up to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)—something that is unsafe and could result in a $41 fine from Philadelphia Police--drivers meeting arriving guests at the airport can take advantage of the airport’s free cell phone waiting lot, located just minutes away from all PHL baggage claims. The lot features an arrivals board so that drivers can see when their guests’ planes have landed, along with two vending machines to purchase water and soft drinks, a trash can and recycling bin.  

Drivers can park in the cell phone lot for 30 minutes. Those that will be waiting longer or need to access restrooms, are encouraged to park in PHL’s short-term parking, located across from the baggage claims.  Anyone needing to refuel their cars can stop at Wawa, located at 8220 West Bartram Avenue, a short distance from the airport. 

The cell phone lot amenity is common at most U.S. airports. But do you know how they came to be?  

Following the events of September 11, 2001, cars were no longer able to dwell in baggage claim areas or park on the shoulder of ramps and roadways leading up to airports [note that this activity is dangerous to drivers and those waiting for passengers and illegal]. Instead of circling the airport several times, the “Cell Phone Lot,” which refers to people awaiting loved ones' calls or texts, was created as a convenience at airports. No more circling the  airport waiting for the call. Cell phone lots allow airports to improve security, the flow of traffic and reduce congestion during peak times and holidays.   

The first U.S. airport cell phone lots opened in 2004 at Los Angeles International (LAX) and Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) airports. PHL’s 150-space lot was introduced in December 2009.   


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Christine Ottow
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Heather Redfern
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