It’s risky to say the boss is wrong, but my boss is really wrong—about airport pickups.
She recently wrote a Grinchy piece positing that travelers should stop expecting their loved ones to get them. It’s a hassle, and adds to the already nightmarish curbside traffic. Scores of readers applauded this idea.
In my book, schlepping someone to or from the airport is the ultimate act of service. Especially if that someone is me. It’s my unabashed love language. I’ve even thought about weaving that into a dating-app profile.
If I’m free, I’ll bring anyone to the airport, including my former husband. It saves us all money, too.
Hitching a ride with family or friends adds a personal touch the most charming Uber Black driver can’t replicate. I love it when my daughter (somewhat begrudgingly) packs her 17-month-old twins into the car for an early-morning airport drop-off at the Phoenix airport, a 20-minute drive on a good day. Hearing them clap through “If You’re Happy and You Know It” is the remedy for airport stress.
Late-night rides are tougher to get, but that’s where friends step in. One of my favorite gifts is proudly displayed under a fridge magnet. It’s a homemade certificate for five airport rides. I’ve cashed in most of them.
Airport ride die-hards
One friend went above and beyond with airport transportation in San Diego on Sunday. After hosting a nonstop birthday extravaganza in Coronado for her mother’s 80th birthday, she piled four of us into her SUV. San Diego’s airport is a mess due to construction of a new terminal and garage, and the holiday travel rush had already begun. Then there are the jitters she gets driving over the sky high San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge.
She made the trip again Monday morning to drop off the other partygoers.
“I don’t mind taking people to the airport at all,” she says. “I think that’s a really nice thing to do.”
Mike Wilner is a frequent traveler whose home airport is LAX, the airport many of you told me doesn’t deserve the No. 3 spot in our latest annual airport rankings, given its chronically clogged roadways.
Wilner says pickups and drop-offs at LAX can be a “big time-suck.” But he can’t say no to requests for rides.
“It’s the right thing to do, and it helps relationships with friends and neighbors and relatives,” he says. “And,” he adds, “having a favor in the favor bank ain’t bad.”
His brother flew in late Sunday night from an international trip. Wilner picked him up. He’ll do the same when his wife flies in from a trip in early December. And his daughter gets a lift when she comes home from college.
It helps that Wilner lives a few miles from LAX. He asks people for their flight information and takes it from there, tracking arrivals, traffic and other factors.
“We have our tips and technology and tricks to sort of minimize the burden,” he says.
I trace my love of free airport rides to my parents. Since the day I moved away from Connecticut after college, I’ve never had to worry about—or really ask for—a ride on return visits. This despite a poorly lit, rural road from their house to the Providence, R.I., airport.
During the holidays, they would even come into the airport to pick up our family. I can still see my mom and dad waiting at the bottom of the escalator for us. Then we’d trudge out into the cold with them, our suitcases in tow. (I never ask anyone to park and come in!)
My dad died five years ago, but my mom, now 81, still makes the drive. She asks only that we don’t arrive ridiculously late and fly to Providence instead of Hartford, Conn., if the price is right. It’s often a family affair, with my sister and niece pitching in on pickups.
I’ve never asked them to pick me up in Boston, 100 miles away, but another sister does make that request when she finds a screaming flight deal.
The family airport shuttle works both ways. When my mom or sisters visit, taxi rides or car rentals are out of the question. My daughter or I pick them up and drop them off, even for those red-eyes to the East Coast. The only exception is when I lived in Chicago and didn’t own a car. I still met my mom at the airport on her first visit.
The family-shuttle plan backfired in 2021. On the way to Logan Airport in Boston, my sister’s car ran out of gas in the Ted Williams Tunnel.
The state police shuttled my niece and a friend to the airport in a prisoner-transport van so they didn’t miss their flight.
Write to Dawn Gilbertson at email@example.com