Want to cruise through the Philly airport? Of course you do! Since January, I’ve been through our local airport more than 30 times (mostly on business travel), so you could say I’ve got a little experience. Here, 10 ways to make a stay at PHL as short as possible.
1. Fly a lot. It’s true: It really is better for the one percent. Particularly when flying. And there’s no better way to travel comfortably than to just fly a lot. Particularly with one airline. When you’re a frequent flier you get to board and depart your plane before most others. You always get a space for your luggage. You often get the use of the airline’s lounge. If you need to change a flight, you’re accommodated, oftentimes without extra charges. And if you’re on standby, you’ll find your name moved to the top of the list.
2. Leave early. The airport is deserted before 7 a.m. Wherever you’re going that day, take an early flight. You will fly through security, encounter no lines at Au Bon Pain, and even find an available plug for your iPad at the gate. If your flight is canceled, you’ll have more options to choose from during the day.
3. Park in Garage C. There are always spots, especially near the top. I like the fourth floor. Garage C is in the middle of the airport, which is key, because you probably won’t know what gate your return plane will arrive at. Use your credit card so that you can use the self-service exit gate (using the same credit card). I don’t use offsite parking services, but I’m open to suggestions. I know they’re cheaper, and maybe I’m wrong, but my impression is that they add significant time to the journey.
4. Don’t check bags. Yes, I’m telling you to be one of those annoying guys with the shoulder bag and the roller bag (Me? I’ve got an awesome Tom Bihn bag that holds a week’s worth of clothes and fits anywhere). It’s not just about the baggage fees. It’s about time. Even if you have to check your bag at the gate, you’ll get it as you come off the plane and that takes way less time than waiting (hopefully) at baggage claim.
5. Make sure your name on your ticket matches your identification. I’ve seen lots of pained expressions at security when this doesn’t happen. Print your boarding pass at home before you leave. Have the pass and your ID out and ready to go before you hit the line.
6. And on that topic, don’t fuck with the TSA. Yes, that was a naughty word. And if my editor lets that pass, then I must say it again: Do NOT fuck with the TSA. Shut your mouth. Answer their questions. Don’t make jokes. Don’t give them attitude. If they want to search your bag, don’t complain.
7. Sign up for TSA Pre-Check. Now THIS is smart government! Make sure to sign up for this wonderful service through your airline. OK, so you’ll give up a little privacy. Like the government doesn’t already know your most intimate private information? Like I can’t Google your Social Security number? There is never a line for TSA Pre-Check at the Philadelphia Airport (particularly at Gate C). You don’t have to take off your shoes, remove your belt, or strip down to your g-string.
8. Make sure your smartphone has an extra battery and broadband access. Electrical outlets are at a premium at the Philadelphia airport, and Internet access is terrible.
9. If you’re older and slower, plan ahead. Unlike in other major cities, our airport does not have a subway connecting its terminals. And even I, a spry young man in his 40s used to playing hours of squash and softball every week, find myself dragging by the time I’ve reached terminal A after parking in Garage C. (Wheelchairs and special services are available for those who need them.)
10. For international travel, choose your parking carefully. If you’re flying overseas, then the right move is to park on the third floor of Terminal A-West, which just happens to be at the entrance to the International Arrivals Hall. Why? Because no matter where you hold your citizenship, everyone is made to shuffle the same humiliating shuffle through immigration, baggage claim and customs. After enduring an eight-hour flight home from London with a screaming baby in the next seat and two British guys talking cricket behind you, there is nothing sweeter than emerging home in your own country and climbing right into your car.
In this hardened traveler’s opinion, PHL is not so shabby. It’s clean, well-run and an overall pleasant place to be. But with all due respect, I prefer to get through there as quickly as possible. Happy travels!