Cellphone lots make airport pickup easier. But there's a right and wrong way to use them

Michael Salerno
Arizona Republic

The holidays are coming. Chances are you'll have family or friends heading into town to visit.

If you plan to pick them up from the airport, cellphone lots are available to temporarily park. These lots mean you no longer have to circle the airport, trying in vain to time your arrival with the precise moment your guests walk out of the terminal, like we all did in years past. Instead, you can arrive early and simply wait for the call or text letting you know it's time to join the throng.

Sky Harbor was one of the airports that pioneered the cellphone lot. Its first of three opened in 2002 on the airport's west side, according to a report on cellphone lots by the National Academy of Sciences' Transportation Research Board.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport's staff recommend taking advantage of the cellphone lots to prevent road congestion near terminals, especially as the airport traffic surges with fall travelers.

They're great. They're free to use. You just have to follow a few simple rules.

New flights:Frontier Airlines is expanding in Phoenix

Get familiar with the lot locations before you go

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has three cellphone lots: a 90-spot lot east of Terminal 4, another 90-spot lot near the West Economy Garage and a 25-spot lot at the 44th Street PHX Sky Train Station.

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport also has a cellphone lot, located just off the intersection of Ray and Sossaman Roads.

Big upgrade:Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport finally gets its new control tower

Stay in touch with the people you're picking up

Cellphone lots get their name from how people at the airport who use these lots generally are awaiting calls or texts from family and friends letting them know when they've landed and have picked up their bags.

Keep in touch with them as they make their way through the airport upon landing. Leave the cellphone lot and head for the terminal only once you know your loved ones have their baggage ready to go. 

If they can tell you which door number and which side (north or south) they are waiting on, all the better.

Consider alternatives to picking up at the terminal entrance

While pickup at the terminal doors is most convenient for fliers, it's not always practical for the people picking them up.

At Sky Harbor, airport staff recommend picking up passengers at the 44th Street PHX Sky Train Station instead of the terminal to avoid traffic and terminal curb congestion, especially on peak travel days, airport spokeswoman Heather Shelbrack said.

Don't leave your vehicle unattended

Drivers must stay with their vehicles when parked in a cellphone lot. Sky Harbor and Gateway Airport both state that people cannot park and leave their cars.

However, this rule has a few exceptions at Sky Harbor. Although drivers should stay with their vehicles, they can use the portable bathrooms or take their pets to the animal relief areas near the lots, as long as they return to their cars after doing so, Shelbrack said.

Don't park overnight

As a lot reserved for temporary parking, people can't stay in the cellphone lot all day. Sky Harbor's staff stated the lots are meant to be used for 30 minutes or less.

Anyone who parks and leaves their cars in a cellphone lot can be subject to towing and/or fines.

Parking alternatives:How to get to Sky Harbor if you don't want to drive and park

Reach the reporter at Follow him on Twitter @salerno_phx.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to today.